FELDA SAHABAT, Malaysia – Malaysian police shot dead a teenager and injured a man Sunday as they tried to end a month-long incursion by Filipino gunmen in remote Sabah that has seen 62 people killed.
The death of the teen, whose identity and nationality has not yet been confirmed, came on the same day that police said two officers were hurt in clashes with armed Filipino Islamists.
The group landed on Borneo island to resurrect long-dormant land claims by a self-proclaimed Philippine sultan.
Malaysia, facing its worst security crisis in years, insists the gunmen must surrender and has launched air- and ground strikes against them, but they continue to hide within a security cordon around two villages and farm land.
Malaysian police shot the boy, believed to be between 12 and 15 years old, and the man in his 30s when they noticed movement in some bushes while frisking a group of five near the battlezone, federal police chief Ismail Omar said.
Gunmen have traded fresh fire with security forces since late Saturday, also injuring two policemen who have been hospitalized. Eight policemen were killed in clashes before the Malaysian military assault began.
Police said earlier Sunday they have arrested a total of 85 people in the state under a security law and are investigating them for “committing terrorist acts”.
Meanwhile, authorities are fine-tuning operations in a “special security area” along Sabah’s east coast, where they are stationing five army battalions, or about 3,500 men, to protect more than 1.4 million people following the incursion.
The crisis has embarrassed the Philippines and Malaysia, shining the spotlight on the latter’s porous shoreline and locals’ complaints of rampant illegal immigration and lawlessness.
About 235 people took part in the mission to reclaim the state for self-declared sultan Jamalul Kiram III, whose supporters say he is heir to the former southern Philippine sultanate of Sulu.
The intruders had been holed up in a village surrounded by palm oil plantations since February 12 before deadly clashes led Malaysian authorities to launch the air- and ground strikes on their hide-out.
Fears have also been raised of wider infiltration by other gunmen or sympathizers already in Malaysia following a shootout in a coastal town, several hours by car from the battlezone.
The Philippines expressed “grave concern” Sunday over allegations that innocent Filipinos in Malaysia are being abused after being caught up in the fighting.
Local press reports in the Philippines have claimed that innocent Filipinos were being beaten and shot by Malaysian security forces. Sabah police have denied the allegations.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said government agencies will document these latest reports as it called on Malaysia to clarify the alleged incidents.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs views with grave concern the alleged rounding up of community members… in Sabah and the alleged violations of human rights reported in the media by some Filipinos,” a statement said.