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Malaysian Defence Minister claims 35 Sulu militants were shot dead as they were entering Sabah waters
By Alexander Chen
KOTA KINABALU: Bothe the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as the Philippine Navy on Thursday denied a report in a Malaysian news website, saying they shot 35 armed men from Sulu who were trying to enter Sabah.
Nothing, it is very peaceful here (Tawi-Tawi),” Captain Renato Yonke of Navy Task Force 62 in Tawi-Tawi told reporters in a phone interview.
The interview was emailed to The Borneo Insider.
There’s no news, because if that is something (big), it would explode,” he added.
He added that they have so far not intercepted armed persons trying to go to Sabah, but evacuees in Sabah have been arriving to Tawi-Tawi.
Another online portal, InterAksyon, reported:
“We have checked with the Philippine Navy and the Eastern Mindanao Command and they have received no such report,” AFP spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos told.
No such incident reported by Tawi-Tawi naval task force
This was echoed by Colonel Edgard Arevalo, the Navy’s spokesman on West Philippine Sea issues.
Arevalo said he spoke to the commander of the Navy task force based in Tawi-Tawi at 2:25 p.m. and received no confirmation about the supposed incident as claimed by Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
He said 35 armed Sulu militants were shot dead by the Philippines navy and coast guard on Wednesday while attempting to enter Sabah.
“If they had entered our waters, we would have taken them out. We will defend our country,” he said at a press conference in George Town Thursday.
He added that according to intelligence reports, the group was attempting to enter Sabah to cause problems during the general election.
Kiram spokesman claims Zahid inventing stories
According the Inquirer’s report made available to Borneo Insider, the Sultanate of Sulu just dismissed the news as propaganda.
Abraham Idjirani, the Sultanate’s spokesman and secretary general said Zahid was merely inventing new stories as their previous propaganda did not work in the past.
If Zahid’s claim was indeed true, Idjirani said this could have been known by the Philippine government and reported by the local media.
“It seemed they (Malaysia) had run out of wild stories. Their past propaganda has not been successful so they are trying to create a story so we Filipinos would fight each other,” he added.
Besides, Idjirani said he could have known the said information since he stayed in Jolo, Sulu until Wednesday to witness the public demonstration of thousands of Tausugs against the Malaysian government.
“I was in Jolo since Thursday last week. If something happens in Jolo, we will certainly know it, and fast,” he said.
While downplaying Zahid’s claim, Idjirani confirmed the arrival on Sabah last week of 1,000 armed fighters from Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
Sulu intruders arrive in Tanduo in early February
He said the additional volunteers are ought to reinforce the Sulu Royal Forces (SRF) headed by Sultan’s brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram in its fight to regain Sabah from Malaysia.
Raja Muda, according to Idjirani, is still in good condition in Sabah and secured by 400 SRF fighters.
“We’ve been saying that we will not cause any trouble to the Malaysian elections,” Idjirani said, adding that the sultanate and the RSF in Sabah will only closely monitor the elections there.
Trouble began in early February when a group of armed militants claiming to be from the Sulu Sultanate and led by Abgimuddin Kiram landed at Tanduo and seized the village.
They were claiming that Sabah belongs to the Sulu Sultanate headed by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III
From February 9 – 12, negotiations between Malaysian police and the intruders were held in the hope that they would pack up and leave quietly.
News of the intrusion finally broke out on February 12.
There was a three-week long stand-off but when two Malaysian policemen were killed by the intruders on February 28, all hell broke loose.
Two days later, another six cops were killed in an ambush at Simunul, Semporna.
Malaysian armed forces, backed by the Air Force, Navy and police then bombed Tanduo forcing the Sulu gunmen to flee to nearby villages of Labian, Batu, Sungai Bilis etc.
Follow-up operations by the army backed by armoured vehicles saw dozens of the intruders being killed. However, there were no signs of Abgimuddin, who the Malaysian side said fled the scene soon after fighting began.
Tanduo is no longer the same village and the villagers have since been relocated.
Malaysian security also declared the area safe and free from any intruders and have stationed men and weapons there in case the intruders try another attack.