Malaysia hunts missing Filipino gunmen as more fighters join


Malaysian army commandos in the back of their truck move on the way to join an assault near the area where a stand-off with Filipino gunmen took place, in Tanduo village, Lahad Datu, Borneo’s Sabab state, Malaysia on March 5, 2013. AP

FELDA SAHABAT, Malaysia—Malaysian forces searched house-to-house Wednesday after armed Filipinos apparently escaped a military assault, as a Philippine Moro group warned more fighters had arrived.

Malaysia Tuesday launched an attack with jet fighters and soldiers on up to 300 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu in a bid to end a three-week standoff in which 27 people had already been reported killed, including eight policemen.

Prime Minister Najib Razak had declared the operation was “weeding out” the holed-up followers of Kiram, who had come to assert a long-dormant claim to Sabah.

But authorities later indicated the militants had escaped into surrounding farmland in the remote region of Borneo island, where residents were already on edge over reports of roaming gunmen and two bloody shootouts.

“Follow-up action and house-to-house searches are being carried out carefully to ensure the safety of the policemen and soldiers,” state news agency Bernama quoted police as saying.

A leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which waged an insurgency against the Philippine government until 1996, said hardened fighters from his Muslim group had arrived to support the militants.

Thousands of Tausug sailing to Sabah to aid beleaguered comrades – MNLF exec

“Many have slipped through the security forces,” Muhajab Hashim told Agence France-Presse in Manila.

“They know the area like the back of their hands because they trained there in the past,” he said, referring to long-standing allegations that Malaysia helped trained MNLF leaders in their insurgency against the Philippines.

“We are expecting more of them to join (the battle) even if our official instruction is for them to refrain from going.”

Malaysian federal police chief Ismail Omar said late Tuesday after the assault that no militants had yet been found dead or captured. He did not explain how they could have escaped a cordon in place for the past three weeks.

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

“We of course hope that they have not escaped.”

Malaysians, accustomed to watching neighbors Thailand and the Philippines grapple with Muslim insurgents, have been shocked by the drama, and authorities have been criticized for the ease with which the invaders slipped in to Sabah.

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

The episode began February 12, when Malaysia’s government said an estimated 100-300 armed Filipinos had landed in Sabah and were surrounded in the sleepy farming village of Tanduo.

After an initial standoff, violence erupted there Friday with a deadly shootout, followed by a second gunfight a day later in another town hours away. Authorities have said 27 have died in the shootouts and related violence.

The Sulu gunment are followers of Kiram, 74, the Manila-based self-proclaimed heir of the former Sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled part of the southern Philippines and claimed sovereignty over Sabah.

The Sulu sultanate’s power faded 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.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • w33k3nd3r

    Sa totoo lang naaawa ako sa Malaysia kasi hindi rin biro kalaban ang MNLF. Sagad sa buto ang galing ng mga yan sa pakikipagdigmaan. Kabisado pa nila ang tanawin ng Sabah. Mabigat din na problema ang titimbang sa kanila. Kung tayo nga hindi natin sila natibag ng ilang dekada, Malaysia pa kaya?

  • Hey_Dudes

    It’ll be better if Malaysian security forces will introduce Flame Throwers into the theater to weed the rats out of the jungle.

  • tonygadoy

    What a hunt they are talking. In a matter of time is that the hunters are the one being hunted. The Malaysians don’t know how to fight a guerrilla warfare. They have posted some of their mop up operation in the you tube and you can hear in the audio that their guys are breathing heavily. They are not used with the jungle.

    • sunan_kinabalu

      You meant the ones who taught these tausug people how to fight guerilla warfares?

      • tonygadoy

        The Tausugs learned how to fight by their own style even mutilation. They were just finance, and armed by the Malaysians before and trained themselves in Sabah. 

      • sunan_kinabalu

        Even if such the case, they still don’t know how to fight the real guerilla warfare. We haven’t taught them some of the advanced things, like how to survive with food shortage while under siege! LOL.

  • tonygadoy

    In a guerrilla warfare, the Sultan’s Army won’t engage with a superior forces. You see there’s a lull of engagement and the malaysians have not flashed them out and they doubt that probably the subject of the hunts have slipped out of the cordon. And if ever there’s a trickle of reinforcement, coming from their hardened fighters from the MNLF, then believe me, the Malaysian forces has to expect a BIG SURPRISE.

    • sunan_kinabalu

      MNLF is a big joke. Misuari knew it all along that fighting Malaysian’s forces is futile and unproductive. His ‘tough talk’ shows.

      • tonygadoy

        You can take them as a joke. but still they can deliver body bags for malasian security.

      • sunan_kinabalu

        We can do the same and more. And this Misuari guy knows it better. In fact I think he has proper information on how many Malaysian operatives are in Mindanao ready to turn your towns and HQs into debris. Still wondering why no retaliations just yet from these so called 10000-strong MNLF warriors?

      • tonygadoy

        Yes of course you can do the same and even more. But the Sultan’s army are dead meats anyway compared to the malaysian securities who are fat bellied and has valued their good life very much. And don’t be anxious of an immediate retaliation from the Tausogs. It will just come. They won’t engage in a face to face combat but will only strike when you’re already asleep. So from now on, its better not to fall asleep.

      • sunan_kinabalu

        Yes, we can do the same while they are asleep. There is a new terror group in the horizon ready to give them the terror dreams they love so much. You still don’t get the idea do you?

      • tonygadoy

        Ok as you’re bragging with your own so called terror type elite fighters and they have posted videos of their search and destroy ops were most of them can be heard in audio heavily breathing in exhaustion. Good luck to them. 

      • iSay2

         so you think the 800,000 or so domestic helpers and factory workers in malaysia are just that…think who are cleaning the toilets in your homes and cooking the food of your ruling elite. think

  • robert franklin

    kiram and his pirates clan of terrorists must walk their talk… what happens to his do or die mission… are they turning coward now?

  • Edgardo Mendoza

    sabah is for pilipinos not to malayshits

  • Edgardo Mendoza

    kill the malayshits this land is to our brothers

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos