MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Malaysia acknowleged Friday afternoon that 12 Filipinos and two Malaysian security personnel were killed when security forces assaulted Lahad Datu, Sabah on Friday, March 1.
At a press conference, Sabah police chief Datuk Hamza Taib confirmed the killing of 12 “Sulu raiders” in an assault that eventually ended the 17-day standoff instigated by followers of the Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III. Earlier, the Malaysian amabssador to Manila only reported 3 killed, including two Malaysian security personnel.
The Sabah police chief said that in addition to two police officers killed, “three were injured and… 12 intruders died” in the firefight.
No less than Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed Friday afternoon that about 10-12 of the sultan’s followers were killed in the assault.
The death toll reflects the earlier estimate of Kiram’s spokesman of 10 dead.
Malaysian ambassador Dato Mohd Zamri Kassim earlier reported to Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario that 10 followers of the Sultan of Sulu who were holed up in Lahad Datu surrendered, according to a statement issued by the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs.
The statement said Del Rosario met with the Malaysian ambassador at 2 pm Friday. “The owner of the house where [the] Kirams stayed was killed,” the DFA statement quoted Kassim as saying. “Malaysian police are now pursuing the group. Two were killed, one wounded from Malaysian police after the Kiram group fired at them.”
The police were in a van that was fired on by the gunmen, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez later explained to reporters.
The third fatality was the owner of the house where the leader of the gunmen stayed during the stand-off in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo, but his nationality was not known, Hernandez added.
An official at the main hospital in the town of Lahad Datu near the site of the stand-off told AFP two police officers had been brought in with gunshot wounds but were in stable condition.
Hernandez said he could not confirm allegations by a Manila spokesman for the gunmen that Malaysian security forces had shot dead 10 members of the group and wounded four others.
Kiram’s spokesman Abraham Idjirani claimed Malaysian snipers had killed 10 of the sultan’s men and wounded 4 other members of the group.
“I talked to (the group’s leader) by telephone just now and asked him how many of his men were martyred. He told me 10. I inquired about the wounded and he said four,” Idjirani told a news conference at Kiram’s Manila home.
Idjirani insisted Kiram’s men would continue to fight and would not leave Sabah.
The Islamic Sultanate of Sulu leased northern Borneo to Europeans in the 1870s.
While the sultanate’s authority gradually faded as Western colonial powers exerted their influence over the region, it continued to receive lease payments for Sabah.
The former British colony became part of the federation of Malaysia when it was formed in 1963.
Kiram and the other heirs of the sultan still receive nominal annual compensation from Malaysia in the equivalent of about US$1,700.
Idjirani suggested last week that the men would stand down if the compensation were substantially raised. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com