MANILA, Philippines – The 3-day deadline given by Malaysia for the Philippines to reclaim the bodies of Filipino militants killed in Sabah lapsed at midnight on Sunday, March 17, and the corpses will be buried immediately, state news agency Bernama said.
So far 22 of the 28 bodies recovered have been examined by local authorities in Sabah, while other security forces are still searching for the remains of another 34 militants Malaysia claims were also slain.
The 28 include the corpse of a suspected follower of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III killed on Sunday morning, according to the report published late on Sunday, March 17.
Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib gave the deadline last Thursday based on guidlines from the Geneva Convention.
Taib said that security forces have tightened patrols around the Lahad Datu exclusion area, but admitted Kiram’s followers may have fled to Tambisan Island, about 100 km off the coast of Felda Sahabat, Lahad Datu.
Kiram relatives nabbed
The deadline lapsed on Sunday as Malaysia announced that that relatives of the sultan were among the 104 people arrested for being involved in the standoff in Sabah.
Kiram’s relatives were detained under the new Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act, which in theory is only applicable for acts of terrorism.
The law was passed in 2012 to replace the controversial 1960 Internal Security Act, which allowed detention without charges or trial if authorities deemed the suspect had put the security of the state at risk.
Malaysia called the gunmen involved in the standoff “terrorists,” but the Philippines so far was only willing to admit they may have committed “acts of terrorism.”
The Philippine Navy last week detained 35 suspected Filipino intruders as they tried to sail home, and the Department of Justice is preparing to file charges against them.
Agbimuddin Kiram, the leader of the intruders and the younger brother of the sultan, was not among those arrested. – with reports from Carlos Santamaria and Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
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