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Suspected Philippine Militants Holed up in Sabah

A map showing proximity of Malaysia’s state of Sabah and the Philippines’ Sulu islands

Manila and Kuala Lumpur – Around 80 to 100 armed men, believed to be of Filipino nationalities, have been surrounded by Malaysian security forces in the state of Sabah, Borneo.


A report from the Malaysian news portal The Star Online said the armed men calls themselves as the “Royal Sulu Sultanate Army.” They are said to be the followers of the “Sultan of Sulu.” Sulu, an archipelagic province in the southernmost tip of the Philippines and near Malaysia’s Borneo island, has been known to be infested by various extremist rebels, including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).


The ASG has history of intruding Malaysian territories to kidnap Malaysian and foreign nationals. The most daring of which was the 21 foreign nationals who were seized by the group from a posh diving resort off Malaysia’s Sipadan island, taking them off to a secluded Philippine island. The hostage crisis lasted after several months during a daring rescue attempt by the Philippine military. Some of the hostages were either killed by the rebel group during captivity or during the pursuit operations.


The Star Online quoted Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein as saying that security forces are continuing to negotiate with the armed men, who are particularly located in the island’s Lahad Datu. Hishammuddin confirmed however that the group is not holding as hostage any Malaysian citizens.


The Philippine government has yet to comment on the incident. A Foreign Affairs spokesman told various news agencies that they are still verifying the details of the incident.


The Philippines has a standing claim over some parts of Malaysia’s state of Sabah, which is known during earlier as North Borneo prior to the formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963. The disputed island is said to be owned by the Sultanate of Sulu and that it was only leased to a British company early on.