Mar 14, 2013

35 Sulu Intruders were intercepted by Philippine Navy - In or Out ?

35 Sulu gunmen intercepted off Philippine waters
The Malaysian Insider


KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 – Thirty-five followers of the Sulu Sultanate in two boats laden with firearms and ammunition were intercepted off the coast of Tawi-Tawi in southern Philippines this morning, the Philippine navy has confirmed.

Navy spokesman Lt. Commander Gregory Fabic said in a report on the Philippine Star that the followers were intercepted by a patrol vessel in waters off Andoligan town at around 6.30am.

The report added that it was yet to be determined if the boats were sailing to Sabah to reinforce the Sulu army currently locked in battle with Malaysian security forces.

A woman was among the 35 detained.

The “royal” Sulu army, led by self-proclaimed “crown prince” Agbimuddin Kiram, landed in Sabah’s coastal Lahad Datu township on February 9 to lay claim over the north Borneo territory.

Attempts to resolve the conflict peacefully failed, despite intervention from the Philippine government, sparking the first round of attacks between Malaysian security forces and the Sulu gunmen on March 1.

Last Tuesday, Malaysia launched Ops Daulat, kicking off the assault with an aerial strike of bombs and heavy artillery fire before dispatching its ground troops to make a clean sweep of the coastal villages in Lahad Datu where Aagbimuddin and his men were hiding.

But the elusive Agbimuddin and his men still slipped out of sight, and are believed to be receiving aid from local villagers in the area, some of whom have been detained for questioning.

His kinsmen in the Philippines have also claimed in the media that the rebel leader contacted them several times over the past week to inform them he was still safe and unharmed.

Last Thursday, the Kiram clan called for a ceasefire but refused to pull its army from Lahad Datu.

In response, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak rejected the request, telling the gun men to surrender unconditionally instead or face death.

To date, 56 Sulu gunmen have been shot dead in separate skirmishes, while the Malaysian security force has lost 10 men – eight policemen and two soldiers. Another teenage boy, whose identity is unknown, was also shot dead on Day 6 of Ops Daulat.

Navy intercepts Kiram men fleeing Sabah 
By Julie Alipala and Allan Nawal
Inquirer Mindanao 4:54 pm | Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi, Philippines—A Philippine Navy patrol boat intercepted two boats bearing more than 30 members of the so-called “royal army” of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu, some of whom were armed and wounded, as they entered Philippine waters from Sabah Wednesday morning, Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo said.

He said the two boats carrying 32 Sulu gunmen, who were fleeing a hunt for them by Malaysian security forces in Sabah, were drifting at sea some seven nautical miles (12.96 kilometers) from Sabah when they were spotted by officers and men of Navy Patrol Ship 38 early Wednesday morning.

But in a report earlier by, Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic, a Navy spokesman, said 35 people were intercepted by patrol boats BRP Mariano Alvarez and Jose Andrada. The Navy boats intercepted the gunmen at about 6:30 a.m., west of Andulingan, he said.

“Our Navy was able to intercept them and there were four firearms, including a shotgun and M16 rifles, recovered from them,” Ardo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

He said one of the boats had 18 passengers, including an unidentified woman, and some of them were wounded. The other boat had 14 passengers.

Ardo said the arrival of armed followers of Kiram in Philippine waters indicated they were in panic as Malaysian state forces intensified the hunt for them in Sabah.

“They are obviously afraid (of Malaysian state forces) and they returned (to the Philippines) to evade arrest there,” Ardo said.

He said most of the intercepted Kiram followers were to be turned over to the police but those injured will be handed over to social welfare officials when they arrive here some time “before midnight” Wednesday.

The interception of the Sulu gunmen took place as Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib announced on Wednesday that Malaysia’s sea blockade around Sabah was so tight “no Sulu terrorists can escape it.”

Speaking over a Sabah-based shortwave radio, whose broadcast was monitored in Digos City in Davao del Sur, Hamza said Malaysian security forces were making sure that the remaining “terrorists,” led by Kiram’s younger brother Agbimuddin Kiram, will fall as Ops Daulat (sovereignty) was gearing for an end following the clearing of Tanduo in Lahad Datu.

Hamza said only small areas in the “red zones” of Tawau, Semporna and Lahad Datu were being combed for remnants of the Sulu “terrorists.”

But even then, he admitted that residents of Tanduo were still barred from returning home.

Hamza also admitted that Agbimuddin had indeed evaded the operation and was believed still in one of the red zones because he could not escape due to the tightened naval blockade around Sabah.

“We believe he is still in Kampung Tanjung Batu with some of his followers,” he said.

Since the launch of Ops Daulat nine days ago, 56 Sulu gunmen had reportedly been killed but only 44 bodies have been found so far. Of the bodies that were found, only 25 have been taken out of the battle zone because the others were too decomposed to be moved out, Hamza said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told a nationally-broadcast press conference on Wednesday that it was important for Malaysia to beef up its security for the benefit of the its people. The broadcast was also picked up by the Inquirer on shortwave radio in Digos

In addition to the naval blockade, some seven army battalions, backed by air and artillery assets, were now stationed on Sabah with hundreds of members of the Malaysian police.

“The Lahad Datu incident was a wake- up call for the country on the possible external dangers,” Najib said, adding that among the measures being taken these days was the setting up of a 1,400-kilometer special security area from Kudat to Tawau.

He said the intrusion into Sabah by Kiram’s followers showed that Malaysia’s security was vulnerable, but the government was now trying to prevent a recurrence.

Radio 24, a station operated by state owned news agency Berita Nasional Malaysia (Bernama), reported Malaysian police deputy chief Khalid Abu Bakar as telling journalists that the government was trying to determine what charges to slap on the Sulu gunmen and their suspected local supporters, who had been arrested in the course of Ops Daulat and the preceding Ops Sulu.

Earlier, Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said those arrested for direct participation in the invasion, numbering 100, will be charged under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act of 2012 (Sosma) and the national penal code. The 66 others, who violated restrictions on civilians inside the red zones, might have to be charged with misdemeanor only, he said, if investigation showed they were not actually part of the plot to invade Sabah.

The New Straits Times website reported on Wednesday that among those initially invited to shed light on his suspected role in the Sabah invasion was opposition politician Azmin Ali, deputy president of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party) led by Anwar Ibrahim.

Azmin, Anwar, Jeffrey Kitingan and other opposition leaders were being linked to the Sabah invasion plot. With a report by Frances Mangosing

Orignally posted at 11:41 a.m.

13 March 2013
LAHAD DATU: Philippines detains 'militants' trying to flee Malaysia

MANILA: The Philippines Navy said it had detained 35 suspected Filipino militants on Wednesday as they sought to sail home from a military offensive against them in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

They are believed to be remnants of a band of up to 300 followers of a self-proclaimed Filipino sultan who entered Sabah a month ago to stake a territorial claim to the area, regional military chief Rey Ardo said.

“They were coming back (home)... they are armed,” Lieutenant-General Ardo said on ABS-CBN television, confirming less detailed reports of their arrest by the Philippine Navy.

The self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu, whose ancestors ruled over parts of the what is now the southern Philippines and Sabah centuries ago, vowed his men would not leave until Malaysia recognised their territorial claims.

However after a stand-off that lasted more than two weeks, Malaysian security forces launched a major operation against the gunmen.

Malaysian authorities have reported that 64 people have been killed, mostly militants, and 97 followers of the sultan have been arrested in Sabah. Security operations are continuing.

The 35 people seized on Wednesday were on two small boats that were intercepted by two navy patrol vessels on the Philippine side of the sea border with Malaysia, navy spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Gregory Fabic told AFP.

They were sailing to a Philippine island about 60 kilometres (35 miles) from the area of Sabah at the heart of the security offensive, according to Ardo, the regional military commander.

Fabic and Ardo said there were 34 men and one woman aboard the boats, both of which carried guns. Ardo said one of the men was wounded, possibly from the Sabah clashes. - AFP

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