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KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian court yesterday charged eight Filipinos with terrorism-related offences, punishable by death, over an incursion that has left scores dead, the national news agency said.
Malaysian security forces have been pursuing more than 200 followers of a self-proclaimed Filipino sultan, many of whom are believed to be armed, who entered Sabah state on Borneo island last month to resurrect long-dormant land claims.
Clashes between the gunmen and Malaysian forces, who launched a military attack on their hideout two weeks ago, have led to at least 70 deaths, mostly of militants.
The eight men are among more than 100 arrested under a security law and are the first to face the court.
They were charged with “harbouring people committing terrorist acts” and “waging war” against the country’s king, which is punishable by a life-term imprisonment or death, Bernama news agency reported.
The men from the southern Philippines, aged between 17 and 66, did not enter pleas, it said.
They were charged in front of a judge, who came to the heavily guarded police station in Lahad Datu town, which is near palm oil estates and coastal villages where security forces are still chasing some remaining militants.
A total of 800,000 Filipinos live in Sabah, making up about a quarter of the population of the state, near the southern Philippines.