DIGOS CITY, Philippines–The bodies of another 22 Sulu gunmen had been hauled to hospitals in Tawau and Lahad Datu after these were stumbled upon by Malaysian security forces in three areas of Semporna and Lahad Datu, Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said Monday during an interview with a Sabah-based radio station.
Hamza did not specify when the latest recovery took place but added that 16 of the bodies were retrieved from Tanjung Batu, four from Simunul village in Semporna, and two from Tanduo.
Last week, the Malaysian police showed reporters a photo of alleged bodies of 13 gunmen found in a grave in Felda Sahabat.
The additional bodies recovered had brought to 44 the total number of people–including eight Malaysian policemen–confirmed killed since hostilities broke out in Sabah between Sulu gunmen and state forces two weeks ago although Hamza maintained they had killed 53 “terrorists” and a boy so far.
The latest casualty, a male estimated to be between 12 and 15, was shot dead by security forces in Tanjung Batu on Sunday after they were purportedly alarmed by movement in the bushes. Hamza said the police were investigating if the boy was part of the group of Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sulu Sultan Jamulul Kiram III.
Hamza said that despite the high number of casualties suffered by the Sulu gunmen, Agbimuddin was not among those killed and continues to evade security forces, including those who conducted arrests in Kampung Pinggir Bakau on Sunday.
It was the first time that Hamza admitted that the main objective of the Kampung Pinggir Bakau raid was Agbimuddin when he said the police got information the leader of the “terrorists” might have been hiding in a Filipino-dominated community there.
Hamza also updated to 222, as of Monday, the number of persons taken into custody, either under Malaysia’s Security Offences and Special Measures Act 2012 (Sosma) or for trying to enter the areas of operations which had been declared off-limits to civilians.
Among those arrested, he said, were four men who had been linked to the March 2 ambush of policemen in Simunul. Six Malaysian policemen were killed in that incident.
Hamza said the mopping up operations in Kampung Tanduo had ended and security forces were now focused on Tanjung Batu and Sungai Bilis.