8:22AM Mar 5, 2013
The operation to remove the foreign intruders from Kg Tanduo, where more than 100 gunmen have holed up for three weeks began at 7am today.
10.17am: Quoting a report from ANC News Channel, InterAksyon.com reports that bombs were being dropped about a kilometer away from where Azzimudie Kiram and his men were located.
Leader Azzimudie says his group could not yet determine if the bombs were meant to target them or their followers, but they remained safe and secure and were ready to fight back.
Meanwhile in Manila, a group of protesters have arrived at the Malaysia embassy to condemn the attack.
10.15am: Azzimudie Kiram, leader of the intruders, vents his anger at the Philippine government in a radio interview with InterAksyon.com, the online news portal of Philippine TV channel TV5.
“The government is ordering the arrest of our companions even if we haven’t done anything bad,” he said. “It’s like we aren’t Filipinos.”
Meanwhile, Abraham Idjarani, spokesperson of the sultanate, tells radio station dzBB that Azzimudie had phoned to inform them of the start of the assault.
“There is nothing to be done about that now,” Idjirani said in a separate interview with AFP.
He stressed that Azzimudie’s earlier announcement that they will fight to the end remains.
“We are not intruders. They (Malaysians) are the ones occupying our ancestral land,” he says.
10.09am: Police have set up a checkpoint on the main road in Tanjung Labian, which is about 5km from the site of hostilities. No one are allowed into the area.
The sounds of bombings have stopped in the last one hour. It is unclear whether ground troops have moved in as Kampung Tanduo has been off-limit to journalists since the stand-off began.
10.05am: In Manila, a team of police and journalists are gathering outside the Malaysian embassy. They are expecting a group of protesters to arrive there.
9.55am: Azzimudie Kiram confirmed during an interview with ABS-CBN’s dzMM radio that Malaysian forces are using fighter jets in the latest attack on their position in Lahad Datu.
The royal army’s leader also expressed his disappointment over Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s position on the crisis.
He said that the governments of Malaysia and the Philippines has obviously stopped listening to their calls for a peaceful resolution of the standoff.
9.45am: According to ABS-CBNnews, prior to this morning’s attack, Azzimudie Kiram, who is leading the armed group at Kampung Tanduo, told radio dzMM that he is unfazed by the plans of the Malaysian government to deploy more troops to Sabah to neutralise them.
Azzimudie said he and his troops will stay put despite repeated calls from both the Philippine and Malaysian governments for them to end the stand-off.
“This is now the time. We will have to be committed to fight for our rights. I’m asking them (Filipinos) to do something to support us.
“They cannot frighten us because we are fighting for our rights – the rights of the Bangsa Sulu and in general, the Filipinos. That is, if the Philippine government still consider us Filipinos,” he added.
9.41am: Philippine radio station dzBB reports that Abraham Idjarani, spokesman of the Sulu sultanate, that Azzimudie Kiram, the younger brother of self proclaimed sultan who is leading the intruders, confirmed the launching of the assault and that a jet fighter had allegedly dropped at least two bombs.
However, Idjirani claims the bombs had hit Malaysian positions and not that of Azzimudie’s group.
The radio station also says the battle came 107 years to the day when the 1906 Battle of Bud Dajo in Sulu began.
The battle, in which some 1,000 Tausug, including women and children, were killed by American soldiers is also called the Massacre of Bud Dajo.
9.37am: According to a military source, the operation involved fighter jets, artillery as well as foot soldiers moving in for the mop-up.
9.15am: In Lahad Datu town, about 120km from the battleground, preparations are being made at the main hospital to receive casualties.
9.11am: It is learnt that seven army battalions are deployed the area to reinforce police force.
8.54am: A Felda official arrived and told Kampung Sungai Merah village chief Rauf Bani to make a head count of his villagers and register them.
The entire group, numbering at around 300 then made their way into an oil palm road away from the conflict site.
8.45am: Fleeing villagers from Kampung Sungai Merah, about 2km from the gun battle, are seen squeezed onto lorries, with close to 50 of them on each vehicle leaving the area.
Village chief Rauf Bani says they attempted to flee to nearby Kampung Embara Budi but they were turned away.
“The guards say they wouldn’t let us in so we came here,” he says.
They are parked on the main road leading away from Kampung Tanduo where the battle is taking place.
8.34am: Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein posts a photo of him briefing Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak on the ground situation in his Twitter account.
8.28am: Prime Minister Najib Razak announces that the security forces have launched an operation to apprehend the armed
intruders at Kg Tanduo at 7am today.
“As a peace-loving Muslim country that upholds the resolution of conflicts through negotiation, our efforts to avoid bloodshed were unsuccessful. Instead, our security forces were attacked and slain, while Malaysians especially those in Sabah fear for their safety.
“The government must take appropriate action to safeguard the dignity and sovereignty of the nation as demanded by the rakyat,” he says.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino is reported to have warned the intruders, who are followers of the Sulu sultan: “You will not succeed.”
A total of 26 people, including eight Malaysian police officers, have been killed in clashes with the intruders over the past week.
8.24am: Explosions were heard near Kampung Tanduo which is occupied by a group of foreign intruders, at around 7.30am this morning, prompting hundred villagers to flee.
“They’ve starting bombing the area. We saw jet fighters in the sky, they bombed the place four times,” says villager Nasir Asrama, 38.
The villagers are from Kampung Sungai Merah, a neighbouring coastal village of Kampung Tanduo where some 100 heavily armed intruders from the Philippines have holed up.
Kampung Tanduo sits in between Tanjung Labian and Kampung Sungai Merah which are 5km and 2km apart respectively.
[More to follow]