PATROLLING......Handout file photo of Malaysian soldiers patrolling Sungai Nyamuk, a village adjacent to Kampung Tanduo where troops stormed the camp of the armed Filipino group, in Lahad Datu, Sabah on March 12, 2013.
KUALA LUMPUR : An extra 1,000 gunmen from the southern Philippines have broken through the sea blockade into Sabah to add muscle to Sulu rebel leader Agbimuddin Kiram’s fight against Malaysian security forces, The Philippine Star reported today.
A representative from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Emmanuel Fontanilla, told the daily the fighters had been readying for battle since the onset of the conflict and managed to slip past the Philippine and Malaysian navies by moving in small groups.
“As per information, the armed men arrived in small batches,” he was quoted as saying.
The paper said it was unknown if the latest group had joined in fresh clashes in Lahad Datu last week, when an earlier band of 100 Filipinos landed on Sabah’s east coast to reinforce the so-called Sulu sultanate in its renewed bid to reclaim the state.
The elusive Agbimuddin, who believes himself to be the heir of a defunct sultanate, has been waging a guerilla battle against Malaysian security forces since arriving in Sabah on February 9 to stake his clan’s 17th-century ownership of the north Borneo state.
More than 60 Sulus have been reported killed in the violent conflict enveloping Sabah’s east coast that have also snuffed out the lives of eight Malaysian policemen and two soldiers.
Malaysian security forces have also captured more than 100 Sulus believed linked to the gunmen, and slapped several with terror charges.
Some 5,000 Filipinos have returned to their homeland since the Sabah crisis began in February, with tales of human rights abuses that have enraged fellow Philippine citizens and lawmakers.
The Philippine Senate has demanded its government hold Malaysia accountable for the possible human rights violations on the 800,000-strong Filipino migrant community in Sabah at the hands of local authorities searching for a ragtag band of Sulu militants claiming ownership of the north Borneo state.
The volatile situation in Sabah appears to be election fodder with both the Philippines and Malaysia readying for national polls this year.