Malaysians flee town hit by Borneo violence

Terrified Malaysians fled a town where dead gunmen lay in the streets on Monday as authorities ramped up security to combat a bizarre invasion by Philippine followers of a self-styled sultan.

A total of 27 people have been reported killed after two deadly shootouts in the state of Sabah on Borneo island where militants landed on February 12, claiming the state for the heir to a former Philippine sultanate.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose government was scrambling to contain Malaysia's worst security crisis in years, authorised a "doubling" of police and armed forces deployed in the tense state.

"An additional two army battalions have been dispatched to Sabah," Najib, who has vowed to root out the intruders, was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama.

Malaysians have been shocked by the incursion, which began three weeks ago when an estimated 100-300 intruders were cornered by police and the military in the remote farming village of Tanduo.

A Friday shootout there killed 12 intruders and two police.

But fears of a wider guerrilla infiltration have escalated after another weekend gun battle in Semporna, a town that is hours away by road, in which six people and six gunmen died, according to authorities.

An AFP reporter in Semporna saw the corpses of three suspected gunmen with gunshots wounds, covered in flies and a foul stench as dozens of people were packing up their belongings and fleeing the town.

Residents said the bodies were gunmen killed by police.

"Our peaceful town has become a nightmare to live in," Julasri Yaakob, 38, told AFP as he heaved a bag full of clothes onto a lorry, his young daughter next to him.

"We are moving out because these are uncertain times. We heard the gunshots. My children are afraid," he said.

The armed intrusion has deeply embarrassed Najib -- who must call elections by June -- by exposing lax border security and fuelling perceptions of lawlessness and huge illegal immigration in Sabah.

At least 18 suspected militants and eight police officers have been killed in the gunfights, while authorities say another gunman was beaten to death Saturday by villagers in Semporna.

Followers of the 74-year-old Manila-based Islamic leader, Jamalul Kiram III, say the gunmen are ready to die to defend his claim to Sabah, which was once controlled by the now-defunct sultanate.

Supporters of the Filipino intruders took their campaign to cyberspace on Monday, manipulating Google listings to post a message backing the incursion.

A Google search for "Sabah" came back with a results page that displayed a "Wikipedia" entry preview calling Malaysian control of the state "illegitimate."

Philippine news portals have said a number of sites in the country also were defaced by pro-Malaysia hackers.

The exact identities of the gunmen remains a mystery, but Malaysian armed forces chief Zulkifeli Zin told a news conference in Sabah on Sunday that they appeared to have guerrilla combat experience.

The adjacent southern Philippines has been wracked for decades by Muslim insurgencies.

Authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia have called for calm, saying the situation was under control, but have come under fire from the political opposition over the police deaths.

In Semporna, schools, stores and government offices were closed, but there was little sign of a heavy security presence in the town despite the recent clashes and fleeing population.

Sabah has seen previous smaller-scale cross-border raids from Islamic militants and other bandits from the Philippines.

The Sulu sultanate's power faded about a century ago but it has continued to receive nominal Malaysian payments for Sabah under a lease deal inherited from European colonial powers.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires
    Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires

    Eleven Filipinos are included in Forbes’ 2015 list of richest people in the world. Filipino-Chinese tycoon Henry Sy Sr. continues to be the wealthiest man in the Philippines. The 90-year-old SM supermalls, banking and property tycoon ranked 73rd among the world’s richest with an increased net worth of $14.2 billion from $11.4 billion last year. Sy’s net worth was attributed to the continued growth of his SM Investments Corp. and his more recent venture, the City of Dreams Manila resort and …

  • Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit
    Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit

    Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla wept and embraced his father as he apologized for the “accidental” shooting incident in their Ayala Alabang residence, the family’s spokesman said yesterday. Lawyer Raymund Fortun came out of the private room at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City to speak to reporters, who were barred from entering the hospital compound during the visit of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. …

  • No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors
    No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors

    Instead of filing an opposition, ombudsman prosecutors filed a manifestation yesterday expressing belief that there is no urgent need for Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. to visit his son at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center. “Based on the clinical abstract issued by the Asian Hospital on patient (Cavite) Vice-governor (Jolo) Revilla, which was submitted by accused Revilla in support of his Urgent Motion, Vice-governor Revilla is in stable condition and has stable vital signs, as of March 1, …

  • N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills
    N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

    North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …

  • Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano
    Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano

    Government troops captured Sunday a bomb and weapons factory of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced yesterday. Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said the captured bomb and weapons factory is located inside an area controlled by radical Muslim cleric Ustadz Mohammad Ali Tambako at Barangay Dasikil in Mamasapano. …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say
    How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say

    CAIRO (AP) — Three British schoolgirls believed to have gone to Syria to become "jihadi" brides. Three young men charged in New York with plotting to join the Islamic State group and carry out attacks on American soil. A masked, knife-wielding militant from London who is the face of terror in videos showing Western hostages beheaded. …

  • Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media
    Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media

    By Jane Wardell and Beawiharta SYDNEY/DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Two convicted Australian drug smugglers were removed from a prison in Bali on Wednesday to be taken to an Indonesian island where they will be shot by firing squad, Australian media reported. The planned executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, have ratcheted up diplomatic tensions amid repeated pleas of mercy for the pair from Australia and thrown a spotlight on Indonesia's increasing use of the death …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options