Sabah standoff leader dies in Tawi-Tawi

MANILA, Philippines – Sabah standoff leader Agbimuddin Kiram died of cardiac arrest in his hometown in the province of Tawi-Tawi Tuesday, January 13, police said.  

Rappler confirmed from 3 different sources that Kiram, also known as Datu Puing, died at his home at Barangay Tubig Indangan in the town of Simunul in Tawi-Tawi.  

In February 2013, Kiram led a group of about 200 armed followers of the Sultanate of Sulu to Lahad Datu, Sabah, to revive the sultanate's claim to the Eastern Malaysian state. The group called themselves the Royal Sultanate Forces. (READ: Sabah as the last gold coin)

The stunt led to the standoff between the sultan's followers and Malaysian forces, causing the lives of 60 people - 52 Filipinos and 8 Malaysian policemen, and forcing over 6,000 Filipinos to flee Sabah.  

Several individuals are facing terrorism-related charges over the incident.  

President Benigno Aquino III called the standoff a propaganda war and maintained that the Philippines' dormant claim to Sabah should not be resolved by taking up arms.

Since the incident, Malaysia has tightened security along the state's eastern borders, which in the past, had been welcoming of residents from the island provices of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The whereabouts of Kiram had been undetermined prior to his death. Weeks after the Sabah standoff ended, Malaysia said he managed to escape to the Philippines from Lahad Datu but this was denied by the Sultanate of Sulu

It was in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi where followers of the sultan grouped together before boarding two ships to Lahad Datu. 

Police denied reports that there are brewing tensions in Simunul over who would replace Kiram as the leader of the Royal Sultanate Forces. – Rappler.com