Sabah standoff over; 3 die in assault-A A +A
Friday, March 1, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- The Foreign Affairs department confirmed Friday the assault in Malaysia's Sabah state that resulted in the death of three people and the surrender of 10 Filipino gunmen.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez got the confirmation after a meeting at 2 p.m. Friday between Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Dato' Mohd Zamri Mohd Kassim.
He said that Kassim told Del Rosario that the firefight ensued between the Malaysian authorities and the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who landed in Sabah 19 days ago.
The Malaysian authorities have so far identified the owner of the house where Rajah Muda Kiram, the crowned prince, stayed as among the fatalities. The two others were Malaysian authorities.
The firefight is over with 10 Filipinos surrendering and the others fleeing toward the sea, Hernandez said.
He added the Philippines has asked permission from the Malaysian Government to be allowed to send a vessel in Lahad Datu in Sabah in order to pick the wounded Filipinos and possibly ferry the Filipinos back to the Philippines.
"The Secretary also asked clearance for the Philippine Navy ship, BRP Tagbanua, to proceed to Lahad Datu and enable Philippine medical personnel aboard to attend to the wounded and carry them back to their respective homes and families," Hernandez said.
BRP Tagbanua was dispatched from Tawi-Tawi on Sunday midnight. A report from Philippine Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur Eduardo Malaya said that the ship is now in a "rendezvous point" and waiting for further instructions from the Malaysian and Philippine authorities.
The ship was dispatched to fetch the women and civilians from Lahad Datu who were caught in the middle of the three-week standoff between the royal army and the Malaysian authorities.
Hernandez said the Philippines also has to verify the claims of the Kirams that 10 of their followers were wounded.
He said they still don't have the full report of the Malaysian operations.
"We don't have a representative yet on the area. We have sought clearance for our people to enter Lahad Datu since the start of the incident but they have not yet acceded to our request," he said.
There were no reports, however, as to the current location of the younger Kiram and his group. The ambassador also failed to say if the Malaysian authorities were provoked by warning shots from Kiram's group.
"I don't know yet if they have already escaped yet or are still on the process of escaping the area," said Hernandez.
He said Kassim also told Del Rosario that the Malaysian authorities are now "pursuing" the members of the so-called Royal Army of the Sulu Sultanate.
"The Malaysian authorities, particularly the Malaysian police, are now pursuing the group," Hernandez said. "The ambassador said that the standoff is now over."
A source from the Foreign Affairs department said that the younger Kiram actually grew up in Sabah.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who is currently studying the sultanate's claim over Sabah, said the incident could have been averted if Kiram's followers decided to go home.
"The situation gets more volatile if they prolong their stay," she said in a chance interview.
De Lima again promised that she will submit her legal opinion on the supposed claim next week.
"It will include the legal aspect, the basis of the Sabah claim, ano naging developments sa claim na yan, ano ginawa ng previous administrations and bakit naging dormant, what's the status of the claim -- if weak or strong," she said. (CVB/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)