By : THOMAS PI
LAHAD DATU: Time is running out for more then 100 Filipino gunmen holed up at the seaside village of Tanduo as Malaysian security officials have declared that the negotiations are over.
Heavily armed police, army and maritime forces have encircled the village within Felda Sahabat 17 and sources said talks with the so called “Sulu royal army” led by Raja Mudah Azzimudie Kiram have came to a halt.
Bukit Aman Internal Security and Public Order Director Salleh Mat Rasid confirmed in Kota Kinabalu that the negotiations were over and they were ready to deport the armed group back to southern Philippines.
“We are in the process of deporting them home,” he told reporters after a walkabout at the Jesselton Point boat terminal in Kota Kinabalu along with Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib as part of the ongoing nationwide Ops Selamat 2 in conjunction with the Chinese New Year celebrations here.
Asked when the heavily armed group including five women will be deported, Hamza said: “Soon”.
Asked whether police expect the deportation to be trouble-free, Hamza said: “Of course, we are on top of the situation” but both he and Salleh declined to say how the group would be deported.
Salleh also said Malaysia was not entertaining the group’s demand that they be recognised as the Royal Sultanate Army and that there were no deportations of Sultan of Sulu’s subjects in Sabah.
“We have told them to voice their demands through proper channels,” he added.
Asked whether a member of Sulu Sultanate family – Datuk Ismail Kiram – was assisting authorities, Hamza said “there is no personality with such a name involved.”
He also dismissed talk that the group had raised the Philippines flag in the village as well as Philippine media reports that about 1,000 more armed gunmen were on their way to Sabah from the island of Tawi Tawi.
“We have the navy, Marine Police and Maritime Enforcement Agency watching our waters,” Hamza said.
At the heavily guarded entrance to Sahabat 17 yesterday, General Operations Force kept close vigil on the movement of the Filipino gunmen as seven of them approached a well near a hut to fetch water.
One of the gunmen is believed to have asked why the security forces were close to the mosque where they were camped. (FMT)