Malaysians flee town hit by Borneo violence

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Malaysian police attend to a body of a gunman who was shot dead during a shoot-out with soldiers in Simunul village on March 4, 2013. Malaysia vowed to beef up security in the eastern state where at least 26 people have been reported killed after a bizarre invasion by Philippine followers of a self-styled sultan. AFP PHOTO

SEMPORNA, Malaysia—Terrified Malaysians fled a town where dead gunmen lay in the streets on Monday as authorities ramped up security to combat a bizarre invasion by Philippine followers of a self-styled sultan.

A total of 27 people have been reported killed after two deadly shootouts in the state of Sabah on Borneo island where militants landed on February 12, claiming the state for the heir to a former Philippine sultanate.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose government was scrambling to contain Malaysia’s worst security crisis in years, authorized a “doubling” of police and armed forces deployed in the tense state.

“An additional two army battalions have been dispatched to Sabah,” Najib, who has vowed to root out the intruders, was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama.

Malaysians have been shocked by the incursion, which began three weeks ago when an estimated 100-300 intruders were cornered by police and the military in the remote farming village of Tanduo.

A Friday shootout there killed 12 intruders and two police.

But fears of a wider guerrilla infiltration have escalated after another weekend gun battle in Semporna, a town that is hours away by road, in which six people and six gunmen died, according to authorities.

An AFP reporter in Semporna saw the corpses of three suspected gunmen with gunshots wounds, covered in flies and a foul stench as dozens of people were packing up their belongings and fleeing the town.

Residents said the bodies were gunmen killed by police.

“Our peaceful town has become a nightmare to live in,” Julasri Yaakob, 38, told AFP as he heaved a bag full of clothes onto a lorry, his young daughter next to him.

“We are moving out because these are uncertain times. We heard the gunshots. My children are afraid,” he said.

The armed intrusion has deeply embarrassed Najib — who must call elections by June — by exposing lax border security and fuelling perceptions of lawlessness and huge illegal immigration in Sabah.

At least 18 suspected militants and eight police officers have been killed in the gunfights, while authorities say another gunman was beaten to death Saturday by villagers in Semporna.

Followers of the 74-year-old Manila-based Islamic leader, Jamalul Kiram III, say the gunmen are ready to die to defend his claim to Sabah, which was once controlled by the now-defunct sultanate.

Supporters of the Filipino intruders took their campaign to cyberspace on Monday, manipulating Google listings to post a message backing the incursion.

A Google search for “Sabah” came back with a results page that displayed a “Wikipedia” entry preview calling Malaysian control of the state “illegitimate.”

Philippine news portals have said a number of sites in the country also were defaced by pro-Malaysia hackers.

The exact identities of the gunmen remains a mystery, but Malaysian armed forces chief Zulkifeli Zin told a news conference in Sabah on Sunday that they appeared to have guerrilla combat experience.

The adjacent southern Philippines has been wracked for decades by Muslim insurgencies.

Authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia have called for calm, saying the situation was under control, but have come under fire from the political opposition over the police deaths.

In Semporna, schools, stores and government offices were closed, but there was little sign of a heavy security presence in the town despite the recent clashes and fleeing population.

Sabah has seen previous smaller-scale cross-border raids from Islamic militants and other bandits from the Philippines.

The Sulu sultanate’s power faded about a century ago but it has continued to receive nominal Malaysian payments for Sabah under a lease deal inherited from European colonial powers.

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  • Albert Einstien

    ·        “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

    sir mar you are a GOOD LEADER ..dis-associate your self on this ISSUE if you cant convince PNOY to FILE a CLAIM for SABAH & RESCUE our BROTHERS …this is a LEADERSHIP & PATRIOTISM TEST for ALL of you…this is a POLITICAL CROSSROAD & HISTORICAL RECORD….your political opponents will use this ISSUE against you in the FUTURE…..you have the POTENTIAL to be a BETTER LEADER than pnoy….the TRUTH is pnoy is NOT a born leader..his being president is a result of his mother’s death..& for LACK of CREDIBLE & popular political contender at that time…& people would like to GIVE him a chance ..but NOW as we can SEE…he is a FAILURE…it is FACT ..no amount of propaganda can veil that…….we should accept reality that pnoy cant handle MULTI-FARIOUS PROBLEMS of govt…..it is better for him & for the COUNTRY to delegate govt .matters or RESIGN & declare snap elections and just endorse his candidate…….the COUNTRY FIRST before anything else….we can not let OURSELVES see that our PEOPLE are MASSACRED in front of our very EYES & THE WORLD……

    DONT LET YOURSELF to be DRAGged on the WRONG SIDE of HISTORY….!

    sir MAR ROXAS ….it seems you are the ONLY one sane in this govt ..please make an OPEN LETTER to PNOY …publish it in ALL newspaper worldwide…ASKING the GOVT to CLAIM SABAH….if pnoy will NOT LISTEN to you…..SUBMIT your resignation letter…that WAY you preserve your dignity…  

     you will be on the RIGHT SIDE of HISTORY….!!!

  • Alex Alvarez

    that man is visible as a civilian, in slippers with shirts, no military uniform? how sure this guy is an Royal Sulu Army member and not an ordinary civilian?

    • rock_steady

      That is another Malaysian squatter that the military sacrificed for photo-ops.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sang.garudada Sang Garudada

    It is confirmed they are filipinos because they smell like cockroaches and rats, so on that cue alone it is confirmed they come from pest infested phillippines

    • rock_steady

      Those people you call pest will haunt you for years to come. Good Luck!

  • palakasantayo

    Poor tausugs… outcasts of the Philippines and not welcome in Sabah. You guys are going to be annihilated in this world. Make your move back to where you came from, its not late yet, or else, all of you will die. Your kris/swords are no match to high caliber weaponry nowadays. Whoever your financial backers are, soon they’ll run out of funds and you’ll find yourselves alone.

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