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MALAYSIA LOUNCHES RETALIATE ASSAULT ON SULU SULTANATE’S FOLLOWERS IN LAHAD DATU

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysian security forces have launched an assault, including air strike, to end a weeks-long standoff with followers of the Sulu sultanate who landed in Sabah to press their claim to the territory, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday morning.
"The operation to end the occupation began this morning," a Malaysian government spokesman told AFP.
And Malaysia's New Strait Times carried a statement from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak(photo) saying: "At 7 a.m. this morning (Tuesday), our security forces have launched an attack in Kampung Tanduo," the village in Lahad Datu town where Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, and the more than 200 people he led to Sabah have been holding out since early last month.
"The government must take action to defend the country's dignity and sovereignty as demanded by the people," Najib's statement said.
Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang (Photo), reacting to the assault, said: "We've done everything we could to prevent this, but in the end, Kiram's people chose this path."
Carandang said Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario remains in Kuala Lumpur for talks with his Malaysian counterpart on the security crisis.
  • The New Straits Times reported that "three fighter jets bombed Kampung Tanduo before troops went in."
  • A separate report posted on the website of the Malaysian newspaper The Star said fresh fighting had broken out in Tanduo in what it called an "all out attack" to flush out Agbimuddin and his followers.
  • “Gunshots were heard and fighter jets were seen circling around the Felda Sahabat area. Four explosions were also heard in Kampung Tanduo,” The Star reported.
  • A day before, Malaysian media reported that seven military battalions had been deployed to beef up security in Sabah.
  • Abraham Idjarani, spokesman of the sultanate, told radio station dzBB that Agbimuddin had phoned to inform them of the start of the assault, including the bombing by the Malaysian jets.
  • "There is nothing to be done about that now," Idjirani said in a separate interview with AFP.
  • He stressed that Agbimuddin's earlier announcement that they will fight to the end remains unchanged.
  • "We are not intruders. They (Malaysians) are the ones occupying our ancestral land," he said.
  • In a radio interview, Agbimuddin confirmed the assault and the bombing by the Malaysian jets as he vented his anger against the Philippine government.
  • "Pinahuhuli ng gobyerno ang mga kasamahan namin kahit wala kaming ginagawang kasalanan (The government is ordering the arrest of our companions even if we haven't done anything bad)," he said. "Para kaming Pilipino (It's like we aren't Filipinos)."
  • The assault came less than a day after President Benigno Aquino III again demanded that the sultanate order its followers to surrender without conditions.
  • It also came 107 years to the day when the 1906 Battle of Bud Dajo in Sulu began. The battle, in which some 1,000 Tausug, including women and children, were killed by American soldiers is also called the Massacre of Bud Dajo.
Aquino on Monday claimed that the voyage to Sabah by the Sulu sultanate's followers was part of a "conspiracy" and vowed to get those he said had put thousands of lives in harm's way. However, the sultanate dismissed the claim.
A total of 27 people have been reported killed since the first clash between Agbimuddin’s group and the Malaysians last week.
The affair has been Malaysia's worst security crisis in years, underlining instability and lawlessness in the seas between the two countries and exposing lax security along its coast.  

Source: with Abigail Kwok and Dexter San Pedro, InterAksyon.com


Meanwhile in Manila, President Benigno Aquino III on Monday reiterated his administration’s theory that the ongoing crisis in Sabah was the result of a conspiracy, and not solely the handiwork of Sultan Sulu Jamalul Kiram III and his followers. He vowed to hold liable those who had deliberately put the lives of thousands of Filipinos in Sabah in harm’s way.

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