DFA confirms Malaysian air strike on Filipino gunmen in Sabah PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 14:57

The Dept. of Foreign Affairs has confirmed Malaysia's air strikes Tuesday against the remaining followers of a Philippine sultan locked in armed hostilities in Sabah.

But it could not confirm immediately if there are Filipino casualties in the offensive.

In a move aimed at ending the three-week deadly standoff, Malaysian jets bombed parts of Lahad Datu where at least 180 followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III pressing ownership over the territory have been holed up since Feb. 12.

“We would like to confirm reports that Malaysian security forces conducted airstrikes followed by ground operations in Lahad Datu. We are awaiting more details on this event including the number of casualties if there are any,” Hernandez told a press briefing.

The operation was conducted several hours after Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario met with his Malaysian counterpart Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and the Malaysian Defense Chief in Kuala Lumpur at 1 am Tuesday.

As of Monday, the DFA has recorded 23 Filipino casualties in the armed hostilities.

Del Rosario was dispatched by the Philippine government to Kuala Lumpur to appeal for “maximum tolerance” on the Filipinos regarded as intruders by Malaysian forces as Manila scrambled to end the violence in Sabah.

In a statement from Kuala Lumpur, Del Rosario said: “We came to Malaysia to endeavor to walk that last mile to try to save lives in this unfortunate conflict. We intend to fully continue this effort.”

Del Rosario also requested the Malaysian government to establish a safety corridor for women, children and other civilians not involved in the hostilities, Hernandez said.

In a move that stunned the Philippines and Malaysia, dozens of Filipinos landed by boat from Southern Mindanao last month to re-settle and fortify the Sultanate of Sulu's claim to the territory located in Borneo Island, sparking a diplomatic crisis between the two Asian neighbors.

The Filipinos refused to leave until the Malaysian government heeds their demand to re-open talks on unresolved claim of the sultanate on Sabah.

Kiram, 74, said he is the heir to the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled Sabah and islands in Southern Philippines.

Over the years, the sultanate’s power has diminished but it has continued to receive nominal payment from the Malaysian government under a historical lease arrangement between Kiram’s forebears and the British North Borneo company.

The latest flareup in the conflict over Sabah has long been a thorn in Malaysian-Philippines relations.

The Philippines has also been concerned that the violence could affect years-long negotiations being brokered by Malaysian between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in the southern Philippines.