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Permanent base to be set up in Sabah
Publication Date : 13-03-2013
Malaysia will set up a permanent coastal base in the Lahad Datu district in Sabah, two hours away from where Sulu militants continue to battle Malaysian troops, killing a soldier yesterday morning.
Malaysia's Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said yesterday afternoon that the base will monitor the situation in Sabah's east coast once the ongoing Ops Daulat against the militants ends.
It will be operated by Malaysia's Maritime Enforcement Agency, the National Security Council and police.
The news follows Prime Minister Najib Razak's announcement last Thursday that a special security area will be set up over more than two-thirds of Sabah's 1,440km coastline to guard against future invasions.
Independent defence analyst Dzirhan Mahadzir said he expects the new base could be a small part of a larger review of Sabah's defence policy.
"There will be a post-mortem study on the Lahad Datu and Semporna incidents that could translate to changes in operation, organisation and equipment policies to meet these new developments," said the former Malaysian Armed Forces Defence College lecturer.
For now, he says the maritime police would continue work alongside existing naval bases, maintaining patrols of the vast waters off Sabah's east coast.
Besides the Sepanggar naval base in Kota Kinabalu, which houses Malaysia's two Scorpene submarines, the navy also maintains at least three bases on the east coast.
A Malaysian soldier died in the month-long drama on Sabah's east coast, bringing the toll among security forces to nine since March 1.
He died in a firefight at the Nyamuk river near Tanjung Batu village, along with three Sulu gunmen, said Malaysia's armed forces chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin.
Fifty-seven gunmen have been killed so far, he told a press conference yesterday in Felda Sahabat Residence resort about 20km from the operations area.
The soldier is the first killed since security forces began Ops Daulat (Operation Sovereignty) to flush out the terrorists on March 5. Eight policemen died earlier.
Armed Sulu militants landed in eastern Sabah on February 9, to press ancestral claims by the self-styled Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
Malaysian authorities said Tanduo village, where the standoff first occurred, has been cleared of militants.
They are now pursuing the remaining militants in areas around Tanjung Batu village nearby.
Police detained another six people yesterday in Semporna district, four hours away by road, including one high on its wanted list for possible links to the Sulu militants.