|Malaysia bombs Filipino intruders
Malaysian fighter jets launched air strikes on a defiant group of Filipino intruders today as security forces sought to end a three-week incursion that has led to the deaths of 27 people.
Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government had no choice but to quell Malaysia's worst security crisis in years, sparked when militants invaded to claim the Malaysian state of Sabah for a self-styled Philippine sultan, AFP reports.
“The longer this invasion lasts, it is clear to the authorities that the invaders do not intend to leave Sabah,'' Najib said, adding that negotiations had gone nowhere.
“The government must take action to safeguard the dignity and sovereignty of the country as required by the people.’’
The intruders have been holed up in the village of Tanduo since they landed by boat on February 12 from nearby Philippine islands in a bizarre incursion that has exposed Malaysian security lapses.
At least two fighter jets bombed the standoff site from early morning, a Malaysian reporter positioned about 20 kilometers away told AFP by phone.
“There was a series of explosions in Tanduo. Intense bombing lasted for about half an hour,'' followed by a series of sporadic blasts, he said.
Three military trucks filled with dozens of soldiers also moved in the direction of Tanduo, located amid vast oil palm plantations.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino's spokesman said Manila had done all it could to avoid a violent end in Sabah for the followers of 74-year-old Manila-based Islamic leader, Jamalul Kiram III.
“We've done everything we could to prevent this, but in the end, Kiram's people chose this path,'' spokesman Ricky Carandang said.
After a lengthy standoff, violence erupted on Friday with a shootout between Malaysian security forces and militants in the village that left 12 Filipinos and two police officers dead.
Another gun battle Saturday in the town of Semporna, a long distance from the standoff, left six police and six gunmen dead, raising fears of a wider guerrilla infiltration from the Philippines. One gunman was beaten to death in Semporna on Saturday by villagers, police have said.
Najib had ordered a doubling of security forces in Sabah after the weekend violence.
Followers of Kiram, the self-proclaimed heir to the Philippine sultanate of Sulu, have said the gunmen are ready to die to defend his historical claim to Sabah.