Leader of Sulu gunmen flees Malaysia: police

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Saturday, March 16, 2013


KUALA LUMPUR (Updated 6:58 p.m.) - Agbimuddin Kiram, who has led a deadly standoff with Malaysian security forces in Sabah state, is believed to have fled and was back in the southern Philippines, a top official said Saturday.

Sabah police chief Hamza Taib said evidence suggested Agbimuddin might have fled sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday and back to the southern Philippines, possibly hiding in one of the islands off Tawi-Tawi, less than one hour boat trip to the east coast of Sabah.

But Kiram's family denied that Agbimuddin had fled Malaysia, saying the announcement of Malaysian authorities was a mere "propaganda."

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Malaysian Armed Forces chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said earlier that Agbimuddin had abandoned his men and fled to his native southern Philippines.

Malaysian authorities are gathering evidence to extradite Agbimuddin to Malaysia to face charges, Hamza said.

Agbimuddin led a group of some 200, including some heavily armed, to Sabah in early February to stake a territorial claim over Sabah on behalf of his brother, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

At least 10 security forces personnel and more than 50 gunmen were killed during the month-long standoff.

Both Philippine and Malaysian navy have stepped up patrol in the border waters to intercept Sulu gunmen who either try to flee or get into Sabah.

Hamza told a press conference on Saturday that so far 104 have been arrested under Security Offenses Act 2012, a new law used to arrest suspected terrorists, while 232 people are being held under different laws.

In the Philippines, cases such as illegal possession of firearms and inciting to war were filed by the Department of Justice in a court on Friday against 38 followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who were intercepted by the Philippine Navy three days ago in Tawi-Tawi.

Prosecutor General Claro Arellano said in a text message Saturday that the cases were raffled to the Tawi-Tawi Regional Trial Court branch 5 around 6 p.m. Friday. (PNA/Sunnex)

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