Malaysia detains 79 Filipinos in Sabah-A A +A
Saturday, March 9, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian police have detained Saturday 79 people in Sabah Island as they intensify an operation to "flush out" members of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who took over an entire village last February 12.
Kiram's followers have been staying in Sabah to pursue royal territorial claim to Malaysia's resource-rich state of Sabah in Borneo. Most of the Kiram's followers eluded capture in a coastal Sabah district after Malaysian forces attacked them with airstrikes and mortar fire on Tuesday.
National police chief Ismail Omar said 79 men and women, held without trial under a security law, were being investigated for their links to the gunmen.
He said they were detained outside the conflict zone but didn't give further details. The detainees are believed to be informants or food suppliers to the gunmen but it's unclear if they were Malaysians or Filipino nationals.
Ismail said a Filipino gunman was killed early Saturday after he tried to escape a police cordon, raising the death toll to 61.
Malaysia has rejected a call by Kiram for a ceasefire and urged the gunmen to surrender unconditionally.
International rights group Human Rights Watch on Saturday echoed a call by the U.N.'s chief to ensure protection of civilians and for humanitarian access to help those affected by the violence.
"The situation on the ground in the conflict zone in Sabah is still quite murky and the government of Malaysia should provide clear and accurate information on what has occurred," said its Asia deputy-director Phil Robertson.
The New York-based group said it was concerned over the use of a new security law to detain dozens of suspects and urged the government to charge or release them.
Fifty-three gunmen and eight Malaysian policemen have died, mainly in shootouts between security forces and the Filipino group and their suspected allies. The clansmen sneaked into Sabah by sea from the nearby southern Philippines around February 9.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this week called for dialogue among the parties to bring an end to the violence
Malaysia's government has said it made every effort to coax the Filipinos to leave and had to use force after the group fatally shot two policemen last week. Six other police officers were ambushed and killed by other Filipinos believed to be linked to the clansmen in another Sabah district. The Malaysians have killed at least 53 clansmen and their suspected allies.
The Filipinos say Sabah once belonged to their royal sultanate for more than a century and should be handed back. Malaysia has dismissed their long-dormant territorial claim to the oil-and-timber-rich state, which has been part of Malaysia for five decades.
An estimated 800,000 Filipinos, mostly Muslims from insurgency-plagued southern provinces, have settled in Sabah over the years to seek work and stability.(AP/Sunnex)