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Jamalul Kiram III (left) talks to his wife, Dr Fatima Celia Kiram, at their home in Taguig City, Manila, yesterday.
MANILA: Followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III are not withdrawing from Sabah, and he has instructed them to conduct guerrilla warfare against Malaysian forces.
Kiram said last Sunday the withdrawal of his army led by his brother Agbimuddin from Sabah was not an option. “They are already in their homeland so why come back?” Kiram said.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the sultanate, said the struggle in Sabah would continue.
He said the unilateral ceasefire order issued by the sultanate had been lifted and the sultan’s army had been ordered to conduct “hit and run” operations against the Malaysians. Contrary to the Malaysian claim that Agbimuddin had fled, Kiram said his younger brother and his followers are still in Sabah eluding security forces.
Sources, however, claimed Agbimuddin and some of his men have slipped to Sulu province.
A security official who asked not to be named since he is not allowed to make any official statement, said Agbimuddin arrived in Sulu along with his escorts, with some of them from the Moro National Liberation Front.
He said Agbimuddin could have made their way through Lahad Datu on their way to Sandakan and initially slipped to either Sibutu or Sitangkai.
“It could be the others who were intercepted were probable a decoy or diversionary for their entry,” the source said, referring to the arrests made by the Philippine Navy (PN) the other week
The Navy apprehended three of them and subsequently intercepted 35 other royal force members near Taganak Island on board of two motorboats with some firearms. The intercepted followers of the sultanate had been placed under custodial investigation in the marine base in Bato-bato, Panglima Sugala.
Malaysian authorities also expressed the possibility that Agbimuddin might have already slipped out of Sabah but they continue their manhunt despite their earlier announcement that he might have slipped back to the Philippines. “If we find him (Agbimuddin) here, we will arrest him,” Malaysia’s The Star Online quoted Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib as saying. The Star Online also reported a suspected gunman from Agbimuddin’s group was killed in a gun battle with Malaysian security forces in Kampung Tanjung Batu.
“We believe they are still in the area and we have surrounded it,” Army field commander Lt. Gen. Datuk Seri Zulkiple Kassim said.
THe Philippine Star