100 suspected Abus seize village in Malaysian town PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 February 2013 11:24

Malaysian police are in the midst of negotiating yesterday with the group of armed Filipino men suspected to be Abu Sayyaf guerrillas holed up in Lahad Datu town to get them to leave peacefully to prevent any bloodshed.

“The government is choosing to handle the issue through negotiation and to get the group to leave peacefully to prevent bloodshed,” said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“We have surrounded the area and our police and armed forces have the ability to handle the matter, said Najib who said he had been briefed by the Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar and Sabah Police chief Datuk Hamza Taib on the matter.

Meanwhile, a tight security ring has been thrown around the heavily armed Filipino group at Tandurou at Felda Sahabat in Tungku as negotiators ask them to surrender.

As the Malaysian security comprising of the army, navy, maritime and police give the group no escape route, the group is believed to be holding civilians as human shields.

Conflicting reports emerged about the situation on the ground with some intelligence officials claiming that “an explosive situation” has been brought under control and appear to have been resolved.

However, no official confirmation has come from any of the top security agencies involved in the joint operations against the Filipinos gunmen who landed in the Tambisan area in the east coast of Sabah over the past several days.

Roadblocks round the Tambisan area has kept journalists out the area but sources said emissaries were sent to meet the key leaders last night asking them to give up peacefully.

Although, there were no clear indication as to which of the armed groups from the southern Philippines had entered the area, villagers and Felda settlers said that some of them had approached them asking for food and water.

“They were holding guns and we do not know why they were here,” said a villager who refused to be identified.

The intrusion was related to problems in Southern Philippines, accordingto a Malaysian official.

The gunmen had landed in Lahad Datu on Tuesday morning.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi confirmed that the group had landed near a secluded area close to Lahad Datu on Tuesday.

“I have ordered Armed Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin to take immediate action together with the police,” Dr Zahid Hamidi told reporters in Bagan Serai, Perak.

“We will seek cooperation from neighbouring countries,” he added.

It is understood that military and police tactical units have been mobilised to find the armed group in the Tambisan area, a 45-minute speedboat ride from Bongao, Philippines.

Talk of militants in about a dozen small boats attempting to land in Lahad Datu has been rife over the past two weeks.

Tambisan, a coastal area about 165km from Lahad Datu town, is a known illegal immigrant landing point and surrounded by plantations.

According to local residents, foreigners peddling cigarettes and other items on the streets of Lahad Datu had disappeared over the past few days.

The talk among the foreigners is that the fighters were unhappy over last year’s Kuala Lumpur-brokered peace deal between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Manila.

High level sources, however, told The Star that the group were neither affiliated with MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) nor the Abu Sayyaf group.
It is believed the armed men were “escorting a certain leader”.

“We are still determining who they are and their motive for turning up at our shores,” said the source.

The armed group is believed to have escaped to Sabah following a fierce battle between two rival groups, which ended in at least 22 deaths recently.

The residents also claimed to have seen military movement in the area. — The Star online