MANILA, Philippines—The exchange of fire in Sabah Friday between Malaysian security forces and members of the “royal army” of the sultanate of Sulu was triggered by an attempt of the beleaguered Filipinos to buy food, a senior diplomat said.
“Per info from Malaysian police authorities, two of Rajah Mudah’s men left the village at 10:30 a.m apparently to buy food because of severe hunger. Security forces fired two warning shots and took the two into custody. The two are wounded. Firing ceased,” said the diplomat in a text message.
The diplomat, who asked not to be identified by name, said the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur asked that the two be given immediate medical attention and Malaysian authorities said they were doing so.
“We urge concerned parties to refrain from making public unconfirmed information and to exercise circumspection in their reporting, lest they cause confusion and panic among the public,” the diplomat added.
He gave no other details.
Led by Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, a group of about 200 men, some of them armed and styling themselves as members of the “royal army” of the sultanate of Sulu, sailed to the Lahad Datu district of Sabah last February 9 to assert the sultanate’s proprietary claims over the east Malaysian state.
Malaysian security forces detected their presence three days later, surrounded the newcomers and laid out a siege.