MANILA, Philippines - Raja Muda Kiram, the leader of the standoff by Filipinos in Sabah, escaped arrest by Malaysian security forces in Semporna, a media report said on Monday, March 11.
The brother of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III slipped away during a raid the small village of Kampung Pinggir Bakau on Sunday morning, the The New Straits Times newspaper reported.
A total of 33 suspects were detained, among them 4 women who are believed to be very close to Raja Muda.
The standoff leader "slipped out in the middle of the commotion," a police source told The New Straits Times.
Kampung Pinggir Bakau [is] known as a haven for illegal immigrants from the southern Philippines and served as a perfect hideout for [Raja Muda] and his men," the source added.
In a separate operation, Malaysian police found in another settlement in Simunul an axe believed to have been used to mutilate the corpse of 1 of the 8 police officers killed by the Filipinos.
Raja Muda and 234 followers crossed over to Sabah exactly 1 month ago to assert the sultan's historical claim over the territory.
A total of 53 militants and 8 police officers have been shot dead and 85 people have been arrested for possible links to the intruders.
Kiram offered a unilateral ceasefire on Thursday, but his proposal was rejected by Malaysia, which insists on unconditional surrender. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com