By : FERDINAND FABELLA
FIGHTING continued over the weekend in Lahad Datu, Sabah, between Malaysian security forces and the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, the sultanate said Monday.
Abraham Idjirani, a spokesman for the sultanate, said Malaysian troops attacked the encampment of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram in Tanjung Batu on the afternoon of April 6, and again the following morning.
“According to the Raja Muda, no one among them was hurt. It was the Malaysians who attacked,” Idjirani said, pointing out that Royal Security Force remained in a defensive posture.
The leader of the Sabah contingent, the sultan’s younger brother, called the sultanate at about 11 a.m. Sunday, Idjirani.
Idjirani also said that they have yet to confirm reports that about 1,000 fighters from Tawi-Tawi and Sulu have slipped into Sabah to join Agbimuddin’s army.
Raja Muda only mentioned the arrival of 100 armed reinforcements, he added.
“Aside from lack of food, the RSF remained in fighting strength,” Idjirani said.
Also over the weekend, two men suspected of having links with the Sulu sultanate were arrested and detained in Sabah on Sunday, Bernama, Malaysian’s state-run news agency, reported.
Bernama quoted Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib as saying that the two men, whose nationalities were not disclosed, were arrested in Semporna under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act.
The two suspects were allegedly in possession of two letters from Sultan Kiram and “dangerous weapons”, Bernama said.
The arrests brought to 135 the number of suspects detained for alleged links to the sultanate’s army. At least 16 Filipinos have been formally charged in court.
The Sabah conflict started on Feb. 12 when 235 followers of the sultanate of Sulu sailed to the disputed territory. The so-called Sulu Royal Security Force was led by the sultan’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.
The Malaysian government gave the Sulu intruders until March 1 to surrender then attacked the group despite President Aquino’s appeal for “maximum tolerance.”
What followed was a series of firefights between Kiram ‘s men and Malaysian security forces. Based on Malaysians’ tally, 68 Filipinos and eight policemen and soldiers have been killed so far.
The Sulu sultanate claims Sabah as part of its territory, insisting that the land is only leased to Malaysia.
Sabah historically belonged to the sultanate until it was leased to a British company in the 1800s. The British colonial government ceded the territory to Malaysia when it gained independence in 1963. (manilastandardtoday)