DIGOS CITY – Another Sulu gunman was killed while three others were being hunted down following two brief clashes between Malaysian security forces and the armed Filipinos in Tanjung Batu Sunday.
In a report quoting an Army officer identified only as “General Zulkefli,” a Sabah radio station said security forces were conducting mopping up operations to clear the village of remaining “terrorists” when a small group of gunmen fired on them around 10 a.m.
The state-run Berita Nasional Malaysia (Bernama) on the other hand said the incident was reported by Lahad Datu Army Field Commander Lieutenant General Zulkiple Kassim during a news conference Sunday morning.
Zulkiple was quoted as saying that security forces “came into contact with the terrorists twice so far today, at 9:55 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., respectively.”
“In the 10:15 a.m. contact, we managed to kill one of the terrorists while three others escaped,” Bernama quoted the military commander as telling reporters in Felda Sahabat.
“The body of the dead terrorist will only be brought out when it is totally safe to do so,” Bernama further quoted Zulkiple as saying.
The latest casualty has brought the number of slain Sulu gunmen to 62 as per Zulkiple’s recollection.
The Malaysian security forces on the other hand had already suffered 10 deaths, since the assault on Agbimuddin Kiram’s group started on March 5.
The latest Malaysian casualty was an army soldier, who was killed during Tuesday’s clash with Sulu gunmen in Sungai Nyamuk.
There had been no casualty on the Malaysian Army side during Sunday morning’s firefight in Tanjung Batu, Zulkiple had reported.
Malaysian police chief Inspector General Hamza Taib had earlier told a news conference, which was reported on by the Bernama-operated Radio 24, that the mopping up operations had shifted to Tanjung Batu following the “clearing” of the other red zone areas of Tanduo and Sungai Nyamuk villages.
Hamza said the two villages were now “free of terrorists.”
But he said security forces would remain in the cleared areas to ensure that the Sulu gunmen could not re-enter them as the manhunt under Ops Daulan continues.
Despite declaring the areas “clear of terrorists,” Hamza said security forces were still not about to allow displaced villagers to return to their homes unless it was ascertained the fleeing gunmen had not left booby traps that could threaten their safety.
He said Malaysian security forces were also unsure about the whereabouts of the remaining gunmen but it was possible they were in the Tanjung Batu area.