14 killed in Lahad Datu firefight, including 2 M'sians

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The Malaysian security forces ended the 17-day stand-off in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu this afternoon after an exchange of fire with the Sulu sultanate intruders that resulted in 14 deaths, including two Malaysian police commandos.

7.05pm: The two Malaysian police commandos killed are Inspector Zulkifli Mamat and Corporal Sabarudin Daud.   Three others were injured, one of who is in a critical condition, and they have been hospitalised.

They are from VAT69, an elite police commando unit with its roots in counter-insurgency against the communists, and which has since been re-tasked for counter-terrorism and special operations.

6.55pm: In an immediate reaction, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak expressed regret that the standoff resulted in deaths.

"I am very sad over the incident because what we had wanted to prevent, which is bloodshed, had actually happened.

"Now, there is no grace period for the group to leave," The Star Online quoted Najib as saying.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim extended condolences to the families of Malaysian security forces killed in the operation. 

"The government of Malaysia under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is responsible for managing national security and defence, should come forward and explain to the people over this bloody incident," Anwar said in a statement this evening.

He queried how the country's borders could easily be infiltrated by armed foreigners and the government's leniency in dealing with the matter.

"The issue of national security should not be viewed lightly by the government. The people need to know what has happened," Anwar said.

6.45pm: Sabah police chief Hamza Taib confirms at a press conference that 12 Sulu gunmen were killed in the operation, besides two Malaysian commandos.

Hamza is quoted by The Star Online as saying the shootout began after the five elite General Operations Force (GOF) members tightened their perimeter around Kampung Tanduo and were met with gunfire when they stumbled upon the intruders.

In the 9.59am incident, Hamza said, the GOF members were forced to return fire and the skirmish lasted some 30 minutes.

Security forces recovered some weapons form the Sulu militants and are now holding their ground around within an area of 10sq-km around the village, he added.

4.44pm: Bernama reports that the police will call a press conference at Lahad Datu at about 5pm on the operation.

Two cops were killed by mortar shell while another two were injured.

Reporters have been directed to leave the incident area due to security concern.

Inspector-general of police Ismail Omar is already in Sabah.

4.35pm: Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein tweets that he is heading to Sabah for a first-hand briefing on the situation in Lahad Datu.

"Heading to Sabah for first hand briefing of situation on the ground. CPO Sabah expected to update media in Lahad Datu ASAP," he posted on Twitter .

Malaysian ambassador briefs Manila

4.11pm : Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez says the standoff in Sabah is over.

"Malaysian authorities, particularly the Malaysian police, are now pursuing the group. Two were killed and one wounded from the Malaysian police after their vehicle(s) were fired upon by the Kiram group. The ambassador said the standoff is now over," Hernandez said in a statement, according to a report by ABS-CBNnews.

Hernandez said the DFA is still validating a report from  Sultan Jamalul Kiram's men that 10 followers of Azzimudie were killed and four others wounded in the shooting.

"What we have from the Malaysian ambassador is that 10 of Kiram's (Azzimudie's) men surrendered and one owner of the house where Kiram stayed was killed. From the Malaysian authorities, two were killed and one was wounded after the Malaysian police vehicle was fired upon by the Kiram group," read the statement by Hernandez.

The report said two of Azzimudie's men escaped and ran towards the sea, according to the Malaysian ambassador.

Manila also requested clearance for a Philippine Navy vessel, AT-296 BRP Tagbanua, to proceed to Lahad Datu to enable Philippine medical personnel abroad to attend to the wounded and ferry them and the remaining members of the group back to their respective homes and families.

3.42pm : The Star reports police in Lahad Datu saying that they have not received any emergency order.

Semporna district police chief Deputy Supt Firdaus Francis Abdullah said they were all on standby, together with the other security forces.

"We have yet to receive any emergency order from the higher authorities," Firdaus said, adding that the precautions were necessary, and that the people should remain calm.

"Many are worried that the problem would spread to Semporna, but actually there is no need to worry here as the Sulu gunmen have been cornered in Lahad Datu," he said.

People told to stay indoors

The police also advised people to stay indoors and not to believe in rumours.

3.25pm: Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs says three are dead and 10 have been arrested in the standoff, according to AFP .

3.20pm: The Philippine Inquirer quotes Jamalul Kiram as denying reports that his brother Azzimudie has been arrested by Malaysian authorities.

His spokesperson Idjirani said the royal family was able to talk to Azzimudie, who is referred to as Rajah Muda and is leading a group of armed men who have been in Sabah since Feb 9 to stake their ancestral territorial claim to Sabah.

"We talked to him. He is well. He is not wounded and he is still leading the struggle," Idjirani said.

2.57pm: According to ANC Dateline Philippine, Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram's spokesperson Abraham Idjirani said the sultanate is not bent on taking revenge for the death of his men, saying the group wants to settle the matter peacefully.

Idjirani  said their group would bring the matter to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and might ask the Organisation of Islamic Conference to intervene as the two adversaries are Muslims.

1.55pm: Azzimudie Kiram, the younger brother of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram (left) and who heads the armed group in Kampung Tanduo, tells Philippine Radio dzMM that his men will not return to the Philippines as it would be an "embarrassment" for them and the Sulu sultanate.

"We cannot go back to the Philippines because that will be a great embarrassment on our part. We have already stated our intention in coming here," Azzimudie is quoted as saying.

He said he and his 275 followers were bent on staying in Tanduo village in Lahad Datu while the Philippine government is in talks with the Malaysian government on how to settle the issue.

"They can proceed with the negotiations peacefully...," he adds.

12.19pm: Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram tells Radio dzMM that he will not order his followers to surrender despite the exchange of fire, but the door for negotiations is still open.

VIDEO | 1.41 mins [Mobilisation of M'sian forces yesterday]

EARLIER REPORTS

ABS-CBNnews reported that Sulu sultanate spokesperson Abraham Idjirani said he had just talked to the self-proclaimed Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram's brother Azzimudie Kiram, who heads the armed group in Lahad Datu.

Azzimudie confirmed that 10 of his men were killed and four others wounded in the shooting incident.

"He saw the bodies himself," Idjirani told a press conference in Manila.

"The fatalities included one woman."

Idjirani appealed to the Malaysian government to stop the attack, saying Azzimudie's men were armed only with ' bolos ' (machetes) and knives and only a few had guns.

He claimed that Malaysian police commandos were using snipers to get at Azzimudie's men.

Malaysian Chinese daily China Press has quoted unverified sources at the scene claiming that two intruders were shot dead, while three members of the Malaysian forces suffered wounds.

However, ABS-CBNnews reported that the Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines has confirmed there had been a shooting incident between the two sides but there were no casualties.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affair (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez told the news agency that Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario had just talked to the Malaysian ambassador, who confirmed there had been shooting in Lahad Datu but that it had already stopped.

He said Manila is monitoring the situation.

Ricky Carandang, the Philippines' presidential spokesman, told Reuters that some of the group had tried to breach a cordon setup by the Malaysian security forces this morning.

"There was a warning shot but there's no report of casualty, that was what we got and confirmed by the DFA," he told Reuters.

Earlier today, Idjirani told The Philippine Star that Azzimudie's group had been fired upon by Malaysian security forces.

Idjirani claimed that the sultanate members had called and informed them about the rising tension at about 6am today.

"This morning is a moment in history, that the Malaysian security forces fired the first shot,"  he was quoted as saying.

On the other hand, he noted that Azzimudie could not ascertain if the first shot had been aimed at his people.

However, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has claimed that Malaysian security forces were attacked at 10am today, but that had yet to return fire.

"Lahad Datu - I confirm that our security forces have not taken a single shot but were shot at 10am this morning!

"Lahad Datu: The situation is still under full control. They (the intruders) are still being surrounded. The authority has not returned any shots. Let us pray!" he posted in his Twitter account.

Sulu group appealed to Malaysia

According to Idjirani, Azzimudie also informed them earlier that the Malaysian authorities were already approaching the area.

"However, there was bit of a respite and it was good that the Malaysian police had withdrawn later, according to crown prince (Azzimudie)," Idjirani said.

He claimed that the Malaysian forces came as close as 300 metres from the area where more than 200 followers of the sultanate had been holed up.

The sultanate official also appealed to the Malaysian government to reconsider its actions, stressing that their people in Lahad Datu have no intentions of creating trouble.

"However, if the Malaysian authorities push for action, then the sultanate followers there have no recourse but to defend themselves to their last breath," Idjirani said.

Another Philippine media, Philippine Daily Inquirer, reported that a Sabah-based radio station had broadcast that its reporter who was stationed near Felda 17 - an area near Kampung Tanduo where the armed group was holed up - heard heavy firing shortly after 10am.

The Sabah radio said their efforts to get comments from the Malaysian authorities has failed as the latter were mum on the incident, but some villagers have since claimed seeing bodies being moved out.

In Pekan, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak (left) was quoted by The Star as saying that the intruders should leave before action is taken to force them out.

Najib said the longer they stay in Sabah, the more dangerous the situation would be for them, and Malaysian authorities had taken a careful approach in handling the situation to prevent bloodshed.

"The group must realise that what they are doing is a serious offence and I hope they will accept the offer to leave peacefully as soon as possible," he said.

Two police commandoes killed in Sabah mortar attack

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