Malaysian PM: “Very sad over the incident”; death toll at 15 PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 03 March 2013 14:27

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has expressed sadness that the standoff in Lahad Datu, Sabah from February 9 ended in bloodshed.on March 1.

“I am very sad over the incident because what we had wanted to prevent, which is bloodshed, had actually happened,”  Malaysia’s The Star Online quoted the Prime Minister as saying in an article posted at 6:10 p.m. Friday.

At least 15 persons have been confirmed dead by Malaysian authorities: 12 members of  the  “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” who had holed up in Lahad Datu since February 9, and three Malaysians — two Malaysian policemen and the owner of the house where the Sulu group’s leader stayed.

The armed group that holed up in Lahad Datu was led by Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, to press for the Sultanate of Sulu’s  historic claim over Sabah.

According to the report of The Star Online, Najib also told reporters he had given “full mandate to ground commanders” –  Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar and the Armed Forces Chief Tan Sri Zulkefli Mohd Zin to “take … action deemed necessary.”

The Prime Minister confirmed that two police personnel were killed and three others were injured in the morning clash between Malaysian authorities and “Sulu gunmen.”

President Aquino, who had earlier appealed to the Sultan to order his followers to leave Lahad Datu to avoid bloodshed, had yet to issue a statement although he monitored the developments on Friday while on the campaign trail in Pampanga.

In Manila, Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Dato Mohd Zamri Mohd Kassim informed Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario at 2 p.m. that two Malaysian police personnel were killed and one was injured.

Also killed, according to Kassim, was the owner of the house where Rajah Mudah Kiram stayed.

The Star Online also reported that in a press conference in Lahad Datu at 6 p.m. Friday, Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib reported “12 Sulu gunmen killed.”

The names of those who were killed were not made available.

Abraham Iridjani, spokesperson of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III had earlier told a press conference  in Kiram’s house in Taguig City, Metro Manila that 10 of their members were killed while four others were injured.

The Sabah police chief said the number of injured is still unknown.

He told reporters there that  the skirmish began at 9.59 a.m. and lasted “30 minutes after five elite GOF members moved to tighten the cordon around Tanduo village where the Sulu group of about 180 including 30 gunmen led by Rajah Mudah Azzimudie Kiram had been holed up since Feb 9.”
The GOF refers to the General Operations Force, which does jungle duty and border patrol.

Malaysiakini.com said the slain policemen were from VAT 69, “an elite police commando unit with its roots in counter-insurgency against the communists, and which has since been re-tasked for counter-terrorism and special operations.”
Weapons recovered

The Star Online quoted  Hamza as saying that their men “stumbled upon several of the intruders who fired at them, forcing our police to return fire.”

Hamza said security forces  are holding their ground around the radius of 10 square kilometers

Kassim had informed Secretary del Rosario that 10 members of Kiram’s group had surrendered and that his group “escaped and ran towards the sea.”
The names of those surrendered were not made known.

Hamza said police recovered some of the weapons of the Sulu group. But no number of weapons was mentioned in the report.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had earlier estimated the number of Kiram’s group at 180, “including some 30 armed escorts.”
Expanded PPOC meeting in Sulu

In Sulu, Governor Sakur Tan is convening at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday)  an expanded Provincial Peace and Order Council  meeting “to ensure contingencies are in place and sobriety among Tausugs.”

“We can manage our situation here,” he told MindaNews in a text message.

On reports of possible reinforcement from Sulu for the group in Lahad Datu, he said, “I will hold back any attempt to reinforce.”

President Aquino had earlier appealed to the Sultan to order his men to leave Lahad Datu and allow for a peaceful resolution of the issue.  

As of 11 p.m. Friday,  Aquino III had yet to issue a statement on what happened in Lahad Datu.  No statement had been posted on either the website of the President or the Presidential Communications Operations Office even as the latter had a report on the President’s visit to Pampanga.

The President mentioned Sabah briefly, before proceeding to deliver a campaign speech for his Team PNoy senatorial slate in Pampanga, home province of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. — MindaNews