Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III (seated, right) and his followers display
placards in front of Blue Mosque in Maharlika village, near Manila.
By : CLARA CHOOI
KUALA LUMPUR : Rebel leader
Agbimuddin Kiram and his band of militants have survived Malaysia’s aerial
assault and 'mop-up' operations, Sulu 'princess' Jacel Kiram claimed this
morning on national television in the Philippines.
The daughter of the elderly
Jamalul Kiram, one of the nine claimants to the Sulu Sultanate, said her uncle
was willing to release the four Malaysian hostages they claim to be holding
captive, but wanted to do so in front of the international media and the
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Committee to prove they were unharmed
“Kiram: Raja Muda is still
safe, willing to release captives but in front of Red Cross and int’l media to
show they were safely released,” ABS-CBN News Channel said in a Twitter posting
on its interview with Jacel.
After several skirmishes
last weekend with the Malaysian police, the armed Filipino militants claimed they
had captured four Malaysians one policeman, two military personnel and a
Their claims have yet to be
Malaysian security forces
moved in on the armed rebels in the remote Kampung Tanduo in Sabah’s Lahad Datu
yesterday, kicking off with a dawn airstrike by F18 and Hawk fighter jets on
But almost immediately
after, news reports in the Philippines said Agbimuddin and his men had merely
stood by and watched the attacks and explosions from hidden locations about 1km
away from where the bombs were dropped.
In a phone call to the Sulu
Sultanate’s spokesman, Abraham Idjirani at about 9.30am, Agbimuddin said his
men were not hit and were ready to fight on.
After the airstrike, ground
troops moved in on the village, entering the “mopping up” stage of Ops Daulat
by pounding on doors and scouring the perimeter to sniff out the intruders.
But they later admitted that
none had been caught in the attack. News reports showed calm and silence at the
Lahad Datu district hospital, which has been placed on high alert in
anticipation of another armed confrontation.
Instead, news in the
Philippine media claimed that Agbimuddin’s crew are receiving reinforcements with
10,000 Suluks sailing in small batches from their homes in Basilan, Sulu,
Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga in the Philippines to aid their brethren in Lahad Datu.
In its report yesterday,
French news wire AFP said Malaysian security forces would be ridiculed for
incompetence if it were shown that the severely outnumbered and outgunned group
of 200 or so militants had slipped the dragnet. It further added that this
would heighten fears of violence spreading.
Jacel, in her interview with
ABS-CBN News Channel, appeared to confirm this as she slammed the Aquino
administration for being subservient to Malaysia, adding that she was still
hopeful of a peaceful end to the standoff.
The Sulu “princess” was also
unhappy with the “terrorist” label that the administration reportedly applied
on her uncle and his men, saying this showed the government was only trying to
stifle any possible aid that may stream in from the international community.
“We are Filipinos. As the
leader of this country, you must protect the interests of the people,” she said
in her message to President Benigno Aquino III, according to ABS-CBN’s Twitter
“We know we are armed with
the truth,” she said.
In the disquiet that settled
after yesterday’s attacks, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar
admitted during a press conference that his men were yet to find any dead
Agbimuddin and his band of
armed rebels had landed in the coastal village on February 9 without fanfare
from Tawi-Tawi in southern Philippines, in an incursion that exposed the lax
security on the Malaysian coastline.
The group, claiming to be
followers of the Sulu Sultanate, insist that Sabah is theirs as it had been granted
to the Kiram family by the Brunei Sultan in the 17th century.