MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos loyal to the former Sultan of Sulu survived a bombing raid and ground offensive launched by Malaysian security forces on Tuesday, the group's spokesman said.
More than 200 men loyal to the sultan who have been in Malaysia's Sabah state for about 3 weeks moved outside the area that was attacked before the offensive operation began, the sultan's spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, told AFP.
"They heard a lot of explosions and saw two bombs being dropped by Malaysian aircraft," Idjirani said in Manila. "But this was happening away from where he and his men are."
Following the morning air raid, Malaysia's national police chief said that "mopping up" operations had yet to find any dead militants, but expressed fears that at least some of them might have slipped away.
Idjirani said he spoke with the leader of the armed men in Sabah by telephone at 3:00 pm (0700 GMT).
"They are fine," Idjirani said.
Jamalul Kiram III, a self-styled Filipino Muslim sultan, sent the men to Sabah in a bid to enforce the sultanate's centuries-old ownership claim on the state.
On Tuesday afternoon, Malaysian officials and the Malaysian media reported that their army defeated the Filipino gunmen. The Star newspaper of Malaysia said, quoting police sources: "The Sulu armed group was totally routed by [the] Malaysian security forces' overwhelming firepower." - Rappler.com