Malaysia flips on Sulu leader's location-A A +A
Sunday, March 17, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR (Updated) -- Malaysian authorities appeared unsure of the whereabouts of Agbimuddin Kiram after saying that he fled to the Philippines, as it now considered the possibility that he is still lurking in Sabah.
Agbimuddin, the younger brother of the Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III, led a group of some 200 men -- some heavily armed -- to Sabah early February to press their territorial claim, resulting in a deadly standoff with Malaysian security forces.
Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib told The Star Online that although the police believe that Agbimuddin fled to the southern Philippines, they will still continue the operations and will catch him if he is still in Sabah.
Hamza said evidence suggested Agbimuddin might have fled sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday, possibly hiding in one of the islands off Tawi-Tawi, less than one hour boat trip to the east coast of Sabah.
Malaysian Armed Forces chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin also said earlier that Agbimuddin had abandoned his men and fled to his native southern Philippines.
But Kiram's family denied that Agbimuddin had fled Malaysia, saying the announcement of Malaysian authorities was a mere "propaganda."
Hamza said Malaysian authorities are also gathering evidence and would seek to extradite Agbimuddin from the Philippines to face charges in Malaysia.
At least 10 security forces personnel and more than 50 gunmen were killed during the month-long standoff in Sabah.
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 said 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.
Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahari said although Agbimuddin was not among those intercepted by the Philippine Navy, the police and navy are on the lookout for him.
Meanwhile, former Malaysia prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pressed for an investigation on Jamalul's financiers.
Mahathir explained that launching a siege costs money and the Sultan of Sulu according to reports is not a rich man.
Mahathir also admitted that Malaysia is leasing Sabah but the Sultan of Sulu has no legitimate hold on Sabah.
The Philippine Government is currently investigating personalities who could have encouraged Jamalul to send people in Sabah. (PNA/Sunnex)