MOVEMENT OF TERRORISTS CRIPPLED, LEADER BELIEVED TO HAVE FLED SABAH
KOTA KINABALU: A major offensive carried out by the Malaysian security forces to flush out remnants of the Sulu terrorists over the past 11 days has successfully crippled the group and forced its leader to abandon ship.
Agbimuddin Kiram also known as Azzimudie Kiram is believed to have fled to the Philippines, leaving behind his followers in Lahad Datu, Sabah, said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar and Armed Forces Chief General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, in Kota Kinabalu, Friday night.
But this was almost immediately denied by the Kirams, whose spokesman Abraham Idjirani brushed aside the suggestion, saying he last spoke to Agbimuddin at 2 pm Friday and that the leader of the Royal Army remained in Sabah.
“That’s only propaganda by Malaysia. They’re saying that so as not to disturb their elections. I don’t have to explain that,” he said in a phone interview with the Inquirer.
The latest comments by the Kirams could not be verified.
Malaysian authorities said heavy mortar attacks by the security forces is believed to have forced the terrorists to break into smaller groups, resulting in 10 more individuals detained.
Of the 10 detained at 12.15am, eight foreigners aged between 17 and 29, were detained in a speed boat while entering Sungai Bilis, Lahad Datu from the Philippines waters while two others were detained for their alleged collaboration with terrorists, during a raid in Semporna.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said after searching the speed boat, police found the suspects carrying empty jerrycans and 369,000 pesos (RM28,000).
He said police were also investigating whether the two suspects who were detained in Semporna had links with the ambush on security forces in Kampung Simunul, on March 2.
The security forces have so far detained 97 suspects and 233 people for trying to enter the operation zone of Ops Daulat.
Hamza said 61 terrorists had been killed up to the 11th day and 27 bodies have been removed from the Red Zone.
“We believe another 10 bodies of terrorists who were killed have yet to be brought out from Kampung Tanjung Batu,” he said confirming that security forces had found three burial sites and 15 corpses in Kampung Tanduo.
Malaysia has given the Philippines three days to claim the bodies of those who died in Ops Daulat, failing which the bodies would be buried.
Malaysia is not alone in trying to resolve the crisis in the east coast of Sabah since the Philippines government is also working closely in the matter.
The commitment of the Philippines government was clear when the Philippines Navy said it detained 35 suspected Filipino militants as they sought to sail home from a military offensive against them in the Malaysian state of Sabah.
Malaysian security forces launched an offensive attack on the Sulu terrorists group on March 5, after a series of negotiations proved futile since their intrusion in Lahad Datu on Feb 12.
Throughout the stand-off, 10 security forces were killed, namely eight policemen and two from the armed forces while nine others were injured.
Meanwhile, Ismail and Zulkifeli, speaking to the media after a meeting with Home Minister Datuk Seri Hissamuddin Hussien, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa on the implementation of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), said the military had come up with the framework for it while the police had given their inputs on areas that needed specific attention.
Zulkifeli said he was confident that ESSCOM would be fully operational very soon.
The two chiefs also added that although Abgimuddin was no longer on the scene, Ops Daulat would still continue until the terrorist threat in Sabah was completely neutralised.