Doubts emerge over assault on invaders

M Jegathesan, AFP/Malaysiakini
Mar 5, 2013

The military today launched a fierce assault including jet fighters on up to 300 Filipino intruders after a deadly three-week standoff, but the militants’ supporters said they had escaped and were alive and well.

Earlier federal police chief had also raised doubts about the success of the air and ground attack, saying “mopping up” operations had yet to find any bodies and suggesting at least some of the militants might have slipped away.

Premier Najib Abdul Razak said as the raid was under way that he had no choice but to unleash the military to end Malaysia’s biggest security crisis in years after the interlopers refused to surrender and 27 people were killed.

A day after the Philippines called for restraint, Malaysia launched a dawn assault on the estimated 100-300 gunmen on Borneo island, who invaded to claim Malaysian territory on behalf of a former Philippine sultanate.

Fighter jets bombed the standoff village of Tanduo in Sabah state on the northern tip of Borneo island, followed by a ground assault by troops. The area is set amid vast oil-palm plantations.

“The longer this invasion lasts, it is clear to the authorities that the invaders do not intend to leave Sabah,” Najib said in a statement.

But Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the sultan Jamalul Kiram III, told AFP the attack had occurred “away from where” their men were, saying he spoke with the leader of the armed group about eight hours after the assault was launched.

IGP: Enemies are still out there

Malaysian federal police chief Ismail Omar told reporters in a press conference hours after the initial attack that soldiers combing across a wide area of hilly plantation country were yet to find any dead militants.

“I have instructed my commanders to be on alert because we believe the enemies are still out there,” Ismail said.

He added Malaysian forces had suffered no casualties.

But if even some of the invaders had escaped a tight police and military cordon, it would likely fuel perceptions of incompetence by security forces in the affair, and sow fears that armed and dangerous gunmen were loose.

The crisis comes just as Malaysia’s 56-year-old ruling coalition is bracing for what are widely expected to be the country’s closest-ever election against a formidable opposition, which has harshly criticised handling of the incursion.

Jamalul Kiram III, 74, a self-proclaimed sultan and leader of the insurgents said earlier Tuesday in Manila that the invaders, which had included his younger brother “will fight to the last man”.

Muslim-majority Malaysia has been shocked by the spectacularly bold stunt by the Islamists, who claim to be asserting Jamalul’s ancestral control of Sabah as heir to the now defunct Sulu sultanate.

The invaders had been holed up in Tanduo village since landing by boat last month, highlighting lax Malaysian security in the region and the continuing threat from southern Philippine Islamists.

Manila blamed intruders

After the assault began, Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman blamed the intruders for the assault.

“We’ve done everything we could to prevent this, but in the end, Kiram’s people chose this path,” said the spokesman, Ricky Carandang.

After a lengthy standoff, violence first erupted in Tanduo on Friday with a shootout that left 12 of the gunmen and two police officers dead.

Another gunbattle Saturday in the town of Semporna, hours away by road, killed six police and six gunmen, raising fears of a wider guerrilla infiltration and leading to Tuesday’s military operation.

Police had already said at the weekend they were hunting for a group of “foreign” gunmen in yet another town, but have provided no further updates.

Meanwhile, followers of Kiram, have repeatedly warned that yet more militants were poised to land in Sabah.

The mayhem has triggered panic in Semporna, where many residents were witnessed by an AFP reporter fleeing the town on Monday, fearing more violence.

The Sulu sultanate, based in the southern Philippines’ Sulu islands, once controlled parts of Borneo including Sabah.

Its power faded about a century ago but its heirs continue to insist on ownership of resource-rich Sabah and still receive nominal Malaysian payments under a lease deal originally struck by Western colonial powers.

Sabah has seen small raids by Islamic militants and criminals coming by boat from the Philippines before, but nothing on the current scale.

  1. #1 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 8:41 am

    Oh! Really, no guesses are needed. Now where have all those bombs and bullets gone? Dont we all know the answer already? Just check jib & gang’s and umno & crook’s feet. Go. Have a look.

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 8:42 am

    It is silly for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Team to drag Malaysia in, in attempts to undermine Aquino in the Philippines’ midterm elections in May so as to get control of the Senate and the House to pardon Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from house arrest for electoral sabotage. It could end up a nightmare for Arroyo’s Team to use Malaysia as a launching pad to free Arroyo.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 8:55 am

    We have to take action because these non state actors (Raja Muda & gang) more or less ‘invaded’ to stake a territorial claim violating our national sovereignty. We certainly won’t give way since even their Philippines govt does not condone their actions founded on dubious historical/legal claims over Sabah. So we struck after deadline. However its unlikely Idjirani lied- that Rajamuda Kiram & supporters were 1 Kilometre away from where our F/A-18 bombs fell. You attacked a snake, don’t kill it, it will strike back. Problem is intractable here. For even if these people were killed that may not end but begin the problem with the MILF. Its leader Nur Misuari though denying involvement in Rajmuda’s Sabah excursion couldn’t control another MILF faction supporting Kiram’s cause. Besides there are over a million of the Suluk people all over Sabah many with IC, and it’s impossible to distinguish combatants from Non! Military action, once started, would sure kill or incarcerate some of what Nur Misuari called noncombatant “brothers and sisters”. This kind of thing fires emotions and logic flees and this is how the war experienced MILF people will get dragged in against us. With the jungles of Sabah being “neutral” to both sides but friendly to their guerrilla/sniping tactics, and thanks to project ICs, these miscreants can even cross over to Sarawak and Semenanjung to carry out terrorist attacks. Its likely going to be a long haul.

  4. #4 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 9:02 am

    Thank you Mahathir for yr brrainchild Project IC.

    Now we see the wayang kulit begins in earnest…

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 9:09 am

    Problem won’t go away because Kiram’s unilateral wet dream of reclaiming Sabah is rooted in hundreds of thousands of his people living in poverty in Sabah. They say their claim to refer Sabah issue to ICJ was unjustly rejected in 1963 and they revive it. The fact that we still pay annual rent of RM5,300 a year doesn’t help cos they say that implies they are still owners based on history; that Sabah was not ceded but leased like HK returning after 99 yrs to China! The other thing that doesn’t help (besides porous borders were they come in and out), is up to now tacit acknowledgment of these people’s right to stay by giving many of them ICs…..At the same time we can’t compromise cos the whole world including the UN/ASEAN/OIC acknowledge Sabah is integral part of us since 1963. Our payment of token sum of RM5,300 to carry on tradition does not mean acknowledgment of Sultan Kiram’s territorial claims. So the opposing positions are irreconcilable and unbridgeable, hence leading to inevitable violence. Once this starts, and the other side responds to emotions and not logic, they will unleash their terrorist tactics (honed from years of fighting Malacanang) against us.

  6. #6 by Bunch of Suckers on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 9:49 am

    Good on Bakuthair! You did excellent jobs for trading IC’s freely with votes-on-BN/UMNO to those intruders and relatives/buddies over two decades of your administration…

    Malaysia boleh! Snaky Bakuthair tentu-lah boleh!!!

  7. #7 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 10:37 am


  8. #8 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 10:45 am

    MAL – Mana ada logik 1 lah? MAS – Mana ada sistem 1 lah?
    Dis incident is d spark dat triggers many sakit hati 2 come
    Oh, when will they ever learn?

  9. #9 by rjbeee on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 2:29 pm

    if we have a dumb IGP and Dumb Hisham, this what happens. can even fight 100 intruders..hehehe…all abang and adik fighting
    in the kampong without helments… Stupid police isn’t it..IGP will be awarded a medal next FT day..Hisham will be waving his keris in sembrong….

  10. #10 by rockdaboat on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 3:04 pm

    What? What? What?

    The govt deployed 7 fighter jets, 7 battalion of army and numerous armored cars to fight 100-300 gunmen?

    Also can someone confirm whether it is true that
    our solders were transported by AirAsia to Sabah
    instead of by planes from RMAF?

    Oh My God!

    • #11 by Bunch of Suckers on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 4:26 pm

      A day ago on The Star online news, “7 Battalion Units. as voiced by the playboy sucker, flew from KL via Air Asia. It did show many armies/soldiers boarding the plane in photo. The news did say many helicopters involved. More than one bombing jet involved.

      Do a search in The Star news online and BBC Online news websites… You can see how ridiculous they handled this mess…

      Using big axes to slaughter tiny chicken; yet chicken did survive and slip away without being harmed…

  11. #12 by john on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 4:30 pm

    (MaMak Kutty to explain/disclose)

  12. #13 by Loh on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 4:32 pm

    ///Jamalul Kiram III, 74, a self-proclaimed sultan and leader of the insurgents said earlier Tuesday in Manila that the invaders, which had included his younger brother “will fight to the last man”.///–the author

    What does the self-proclaimed sultan hope to get, fighting to the last man, from Sabah? It would appear that the so-called sultan is not given a royal status in the Philippines, even though he claims to own Sabah. Had he been Sultan recognized by the Philippines, then Sabah can become part of Philippines’ territory, if he indeed won his case; what about the decision of the Cobbold Commission? Since Kiram III is not recognized as Sultan in the Philippines, he will have to occupy Sabah, and to reign if he won his case. He will want to be called Sultan of Sabah. But his followers have no legal status to be Sabahan. Surely even if Kirim III is made Sultan of Sabah, he cannot rule as absolute monarch; he will be dethroned in minutes claiming so! He cannot thus get his followers into Sabah other than through project M.

    Maybe Kirim wants to be governor of Sabah. But which among the nine claimants will be so appointed?

  13. #14 by worldpress on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 - 8:56 pm

    Sooogood…based on their logic

    Spain can come back to claim the Philippines loh

    Can somebody tell them?

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