LAHAD DATU, Sabah—Where is Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram?
Malaysia’s top security officials announced on Friday that the leader of the so-called Royal Army of Sulu had slipped out of Sabah and was back in the southern Philippines.
But Inquirer sources in the Philippines’ defense establishment said that as far as the Manila government was concerned, there was no information about Agbimuddin being in the Philippines.
“Malaysia must have some basis for saying that Raja Muda has left Sabah. But as long as we have no information that validates his presence here (Philippines), he’s there (Sabah),” one of the Inquirer sources in Manila said in a telephone interview.
Another source said in a separate interview that Manila was continuing to gather information about Agbimuddin’s whereabouts.
The sources spoke to the Inquirer on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Malaysian Armed Forces chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said Friday that Agbimuddin, along with a number of his men had “fled” back to Mindanao.
“Azzimudie has abandoned his men and fled to his homeland,” General Zulkifeli Mohd zin said at a joint media conference with Inspector General of Police Ismail Omar in Kota Kinabalu Friday night, according to a report posted on The Star Malaysia website.
Zulkifeli said the information was based on feedback from security forces’ commanders on the ground. The reports indicated that Agbimuddin was no longer with his men in Sabah, he said.
The military chief did not provide any details as to when and how, and from where, Agbimuddin slipped out.
When asked for these details on Saturday, Sabah police commissioner Hamza Naib was evasive.
“We are in a war situation. We don’t deal with theories,” Hamza said at a press briefing held at the Felda Residence Sahabat.
Hamza said only about 50 followers of Agbimuddin were left in the Lahad Datu area.
He added that the operations of Malaysian security forces were now focused on Tanjung Batu, a village within Felda Sahabat where Agbimuddin and his Royal Army revived a long-dormant claim to Sabah a month ago.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, had laughed off Malaysia’s announcement that Agbimuddin, the sultan’s younger brother, had left Sabah.
“That’s only propaganda by Malaysia. They’re saying that so as not to disturb their elections. I don’t have to explain that. It is a counter-strategy,” Idjirani said in a phone interview late Friday night.
Idjirani said he last spoke to Agbimuddin at 2 p.m. Friday and that the leader of the Royal Army remained in Sabah.
Told about the Sultanate’s denial that Agbimuddin was no longer in Sabah, Hamza said: “I can tell you from day one, I never trusted Jamalul Kiram. He can say anything. As I mentioned just now, if Agbimuddin is there (Mindanao), there is no problem for us. There are investigation papers and we will deal with it according to our laws.”
Hamza said Malaysia would use diplomatic channels to have Agbimuddin extradited to Malaysia to face charges that would be filed against him.