Malaysia police raid village to end stand-off, says armed group
Friday, 01 March 2013
MANILA: Malaysian police raided a village in the state of Sabah on Friday, aiming to end a stand-off with a group of armed Filipinos who have been holed up there for more than two weeks, members of the group said.
The group numbering at least 100 people are followers of the Sultanate of Sulu in the southern Philippines and have refused repeated requests from the Malaysian and Philippine governments to return home.
They have demanded recognition as the "rightful" owners of Sabah.
The stand-off has threatened to spark tension between the Philippines and Malaysia, whose ties have been periodically frayed by security and migration problems along their sea border.
The leader of the group told Philippine radio they had been surrounded by Malaysian police, who have warned in recent days that a deadline for them to leave had passed.
"They are here, they entered our area so we have to defend ourselves. There's shooting already," Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of the former Sultan of Sulu, told the radio station by telephone.
"We're surrounded," Kiram said. "We will defend ourselves."
Malaysian police could not be reached for comment.
Manuel Roxas, a Philippine government official who has been designated a spokesman on the stand-off, said in a radio interview that the Philippine government was verifying reports of the fighting.
Ricky Carandang, the Philippines' presidential spokesman, said some of the group had tried to breach a cordon setup by the Malaysian security forces on Friday morning.
"There was a warning shot but there's no report of casualty, that was what we got and confirmed by the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs)," he told Reuters
The armed group is demanding recognition from Malaysia and renegotiation of the original terms of a lease on Sabah by the Sultanate to a British trading company in the 19th century. Malaysian officials have said the group's demands would not be met. (Reuters)