From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 29): Sulu ‘volunteers’ plan Sabah incursions
The Sulu Sultanate on Sunday said it is sending more “volunteer” fighters to Sabah from Mindanao to reassert its territorial claim over it and to protect the Filipinos there who are being rounded up by Malaysian police.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said groups of Bangsa Suluk volunteers were preparing to sail to Sabah and join the 1,600-strong Royal Security Forces of the sultanate led by Kiram’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.
“They will be going to Sabah because of the un-Islamic rounding up of innocent civilians by the Malaysian security forces,” Idjirani said from Kiram’s residence in Taguig City.
“They feel it is their patriotic duty to protect their countrymen there and to show the world that Sabah is their homeland.”
Asked how many fighters were sailing to Sabah, Idjirani said they had no idea yet but the fighters would be going there quietly in waves or groups to elude the Malaysian and Philippine naval cordons.
Once in Sabah, they would be consolidating forces and communicating with Agbimuddin, who remains in Sabah since sailing there with 200 men in February.
“They are now driven by their belief that Malaysia does not own Sabah,” Idjirani said.
He said the volunteers would come from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Zamboanga.
“Our leaders told us that these Bangsa Suluks have been itching to go to Sabah because they are angry over the Malaysians’ treatment of the Filipino residents of Sabah,” Idjirani said.
He said some of the Sabah-bound volunteers would be armed, with many of them experienced in battle, although they would not be going to Sabah to wage war.
“It has been our stance in Sabah to attack only when attacked,” Idjirani said.
“This is very clear to them. Sultan Kiram does not want any more bloodshed, and he is saying to use force only to defend themselves.”
Idjirani said the Sulu Sultanate had given up hopes that the Aquino administration would help them.
Violence erupted in Sabah on March 1 when Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak ordered an all-out military offensive to flush out the Sulu fighters who were initially holed up in Lahad Datu.
Subsequent clashes resulted in the death of 68 sultanate fighters and 10 Malaysian policemen and soldiers, although the sultanate claimed its men had killed more Malaysian commandos than what the Malaysian government had publicly announced.
Twenty-nine Filipinos, including Kiram’s nephew, are facing trial for terrorism-related charges filed against them before a Malaysian High Court for their alleged participation in the Sabah intrusion early this year. At least eight more have already been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Malaysian authorities detained 50 Filipino residents of Sabah early this month in connection with an alleged threat by an armed group reportedly associated with the Sulu Sultanate to stage retaliatory attacks on Tambunan district.
Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib said the rounding up of the suspects was part of an ongoing investigation into a July 3 letter sent to the Tambunan District Office by the so-called “militant Commandos” threatening to raid Tambunan, a farming valley in the interior of Sabah.