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M'sian troops waiting for right time to disarm Sulu group
Publication Date : 26-02-2013
The green light has been given to Malaysian security forces to move in at a chosen time to disarm the Sulu group if its leader Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram refuses to budge from Tanduo village.
Azzimudie, the younger brother of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, vowed in a Philippines radio interview yesterday to do or die in Tanduo, Sabah.
Sabah police chief Comm Hamza Taib said they were poised to move in.
“It is only a question of right timing for us to act,” he said after a two-hour briefing in Lahad Datu with security commandos, including the General Operations Force, army, maritime, navy and police.
A police helicopter has been dropping leaflets over the village to persuade the Sulu group to surrender peacefully.
Comm Hamza said police had so far arrested five men for investigations into possible links to the group.
“We are not sure (if Sunday's) shooting at Tanduo village had anything to do with dissent among the group,” he said, in denying reports that at least two people were shot dead.
With the stand-off entering its third week and reports of discontent emerging within the ranks of the 180-strong Sulu group as they run out of food supplies, Malaysian troops secured a 500m ring around the village, blocking off any possible land or sea escape.
The next 48 hours are expected to be crucial to avoid bloodshed although the Malaysian and Philip-pines sides are still trying to persuade Azzimudie through his family members and emissaries to return home peacefully.
A Philippine vessel from Bongoa in Tawi-Tawi is on standby near the sea border to evacuate the Sulu group, which Manila says includes civilians, five women and 30 gunmen.
However, the vessel with a humanitarian team including medical staff has yet to get clearance from Malaysian authorities since there has been no clear indication as to whether Azzimudie and his group are prepared to stand down and be deported.
Apart from carrying food supplies, the ship is also equipped to treat the injured, said Dr Sangkula Lajali, who is heading the medical team on board the ship.
He said the ship left Tawi-Tawi just before dawn yesterday and had been in a holding pattern at the Philippines-Malaysia sea border area.
Another Philippines vessel was also close by, reportedly transporting a member of the Sulu sultanate's family accompanied by certain government officers.
Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali said he was aware of the second vessel heading for Sabah but did not disclose who was on board.
It is believed that a senior member of the Kiram family is on board in a last-minute attempt to persuade Azzimudie to settle the Sabah claim issue by other means.
Azzimudie has rekindled the long-dormant Sabah claim issue by insisting that the so-called Sulu royal army be recognised and that Tanduo is part of their ancestral land.