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Lahad Datu standoff over, 2 commandos killed

 | March 1, 2013

10 of the intruders have surrendered while Malaysian authorities are pursuing the rest.


LAHAD DATU: The standoff in Sabah between the “royal army” of the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysian authorities is over, leaving two Malaysian police commandos and 12 Sulu gunmen dead.

The Malaysian police confirmed the death toll, adding that three others were injured.

The two fallen men were identified as Inspector Zulkifli Mamat and Corporal Sabarudin Daud from VAT69, an elite police commando unit tasked with counter-terrorism and special operations.

The injured were Corporal Mohd Tarmizi Hashim, Corporal Azman Ampong and Constable Mohamad Qaiyum’aiqal Zolkifli.

One of the three injured is said to be in a critical condition.

In Manila, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters at a press conference that Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Mohammad Zamri Mohammad Kassim met with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario at around 2pm to inform them that the standoff has ended.

The two Malaysian police commandos were killed and one wounded when their vehicle was fired upon by the Kiram group, Hernandez said.

Kassim informed Del Rosario that 10 members of the “royal army” surrendered after Malaysian authorities “conducted an assault at Lahad Datu at 10 this morning,” Hernandez said.

A spokesman of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, meanwhile, claimed that 10 of their men were killed and four others were wounded in the firefight.

Lahad Datu is the village where hundreds of followers of Sultan Jamalul, led by his brother Agbimuddin Kiram, had encamped since Feb 11 despite repeated demands from the Malaysian government to leave.

“The group of Kiram at Lahad Datu escaped and ran towards the sea, 10 men surrendered,” Hernandez said.

Malaysian authorities are pursuing the group, Hernandez added.

The owner of the house where Agbimuddin Kiram had stayed was also killed, according to Kassim.

In earlier reports, Philippines Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II noted that warning shots had reportedly been fired because some members of the group had violated their security cordon.

Del Rosario asked from the Malaysian ambassador for “a full briefing of the operations that were conducted by Malaysian forces,” he added.

Del Rosario also asked that full access be given to the Kiram group so that medical treatment could be provided to the wounded as well as consular assistance.

‘No shots fired’

Permission is also being sought by the government to allow a Philippine Navy Ship, the BRP Tagbanua, to dock so that it could ferry the remaining members of the group back to their homes and families.

The “royal army” of the Sultanate of Sulu was in Sabah allegedly to reclaim their territory.

Earlier, at the outbreak of the violence, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysian security forces did not fire any shots at the intruders.

“I confirm that our security forces did not fire a single shot but were shot at about 10am this morning!,” he said in his tweet, without mentioning whether an operation was underway to detain the armed intruders.

Hishammuddin later told reporters that the Malaysian government had given the intruders enough time to retreat and return to their own country.

Malaysia had also practised diplomacy and patience to provide the group with all avenues, including through negotiations, to urge them to end the standoff and return.

“I want to remind the group who encroached into Sabah to refrain from saying that the Malaysian government did not give enough time to retreat. We have been very accommodative and diplomatic in our approach to end the crisis,” he told reporters.

In another development, Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi clarified as to why he or the army did not take charge of the security operations in Lahad Dato.

“It’s not that I don’t care about what’s happening but the Cabinet has decided that only the Home Ministry and IGP can issue a statement on the matter. The military is assisting the police there.

“Let’s pray for the safety of our security forces. We will never give space to those who intrude into our territory,” he tweeted today.

‘Curfew-like’ situation

Meanwhile, Lahad Datu and neighbouring Semporna constituencies are under tight security following the shootout between the holed-up intruders and Malaysian security forces.

FMT sources reported a “curfew-like” situation in Lahad Datu where all shops, banks and schools were reportedly ordered to shut down this morning in tandem with widely circulating text messages advising the public to stay home.

All roads leading into Lahad Datu have been closed and flights into Tawau and Sandakan have also been cancelled.

A Lahad Datu resident said while the standoff was over, the situation was “unsettling”.

The sources said the Sulu community in Kampung Kaka in Jalan Dam, about 15 minutes from the town centre, had reportedly occupied two shops while Malaysian General Operation Force personnel have taken over six shops.

Also, there are reports of Sulu flags seen flying in Kampung Panji, a squatter area close to Lahad Datu town.

Another text message to FMT described the situation in Lahad Datu as “tensed”.

“Most people are indoors.. the town is deserted except for green and brown camouflage painted military vehicles mounted with machine-guns.”

People here especially those staying in Kampung Panji are worried that those associated with the group may direct attacks along the east coast, including in Semporna and Lahad Datu town, where the Suluks have a strong presence.

Police have also tightened security in Semporna, which is hosts to thousands of Filipinos. Semporna has seen multiple raids by armed groups as well as acts of piracy over the years.

Semporna, incidentally, is the home constituency of Umno vice-president Mohd Shafie Apdal.

Soldiers injured

Earlier, a Bernama reporter, who was at Felda Sahabat 17 settlement in the area, said the bodies of the two Malaysian security force personnel were retrieved by the police and shoved into a police truck.

It is learnt that the bodies would be flown to Lahad Datu Hospital.

“So far, the police have given no confirmation. We only saw the bodies wearing green boots being taken into the police truck,” the reporter explained.

Two other soldiers who were injured in the gunfire were airlifted to Lahad Datu Hospital. One of them was wheeled into the emergency ward on a stretcher, while the other on a wheelchair. Their camouflage uniforms were stained with blood, reported Bernama.

The three police commandos injured in the incident are Corporal Mohd Tarmizi
Hashim, 32, Corporal Azman Ampong, 39, and Constable Mohamad Qaiyum’aiqal
Zolkifli, 22.

Mohd Tarmizi who was wounded in the hands and feet, and Azman, wounded in the
thigh and buttocks, were being treated at Lahad Datu Hospital.

Mohamad Qaiyum’aiqal who was injured in his right shoulder and both legs had
been admitted to Sandakan Hospital.

Also read:

Menteri Dalam Negeri Filipina dituduh memihak Malaysia

‘We’ll fight to the death’

We cannot go back, says prince

Filipinos losing jobs in Sabah following standoff


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