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Sabah Conflict

Malaysia forces say Agbimuddin Kiram left Sabah but family denies it

March 16, 2013 12:00pm

Tags: Sulu
KUALA LUMPUR - The leader of a band of Filipinos whose incursion in Malaysia has left scores dead has reportedly fled even as his own family insist he is still in the country.

More than 200 followers of Filipino sultan Sultan Jamalul Kiram III entered Sabah on Borneo island a month ago to resurrect long-dormant land claims by the Kiram family.

Malaysian forces launched a military assault on March 5 against the group, sending them fleeing from a farming village where they had been holed up.

Armed Forces chief Zulkifeli Zin said intelligence reports showed that Agbimuddin Kiram, whose family says is the crown prince of the Sulu sultanate, had managed to evade security forces and slip out of Malaysia.

"(He) has abandoned his men and fled to his homeland," Zulkifeli was quoted by local media as saying late Friday.

But his family has denied that Agbimuddin had left Malaysia.

When asked about the armed forces chief's comments, the clan's Manila spokesman Abraham Idjirani told AFP: "That's not true."

However, Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said in a conference on Saturday that “We will compile evidence and use all diplomatic channels to have Agbimuddin Kiram extradited,” Taib said.

“...from day one, I never trusted Jamalul Kiram. He can say anything,” he added in response to Idjirani denying that Muda left Sabah.

The New Straits Times reported that Kiram is believed to have slipped out of the farming area, surrounded by Malaysian security forces, by blending in with the local population before the military attack earlier this month.

Malaysia's $3.2 billion offer for Sabah

Meanwhile, the Sultanate of Sulu said the Malaysian government offered $3.2 billion in the past as payment for them to lay down their claim on the heavily disputed Sabah.

In an interview with Saksi's John Consulta, Idjirani said the offer happened twice during the previous administration

Idjirani further said the offer was coursed through the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines but was rejected by the Sultanate.

“Tinanggihan. Sabah is not for sale. Sabah is the patrimony of the Philippines,” he said.

He added that the Sultanate of Sulu gave priority to its allegiance to the Philippines.

“Sinong ayaw ng pera? [Siyempre] gusto natin pero [pag tinanggap namin] we are betraying the Filipino people.

The spokesman and other Sultanate officials earlier went to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after they were invited for a meeting to investigate the reason why the Sulu Royal Army was deployed to Sabah.

It was also earlier agreed upon that the NBI will be the one to go to the Sultan and other family members to question them.

Sulu Royal Army charged

Three of the Royal Sulu Army who were caught earlier were already filed charges with fines including inciting to war, violation of the Comelec gun ban and illegal possession of firearms.

The charges had fines of P24,000, P60,000 and P80,000 respectively.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian government said it will also file charges on the Royal Sulu Army once they surrender.

However, the legal counsel of the Sulu Sultanate said inciting war wasn't the intention of sending the army.

“If the intention is to provoke Malaysia to war, do you think the sultan will send 235 people? Not heavily armed?” Atty. Leonard de Vera questioned.

Charges will also reportedly be filed against 35 other members of the Sulu royal Army caught in a boat en route to Tawi-Tawi from Sabah.

Although the sultanate admitted that most were their men, they said that they do not know where the others came from.

“Ang pinagtataka natin bakit naging 38. Sapagkat ang pagkakaalam natin ay 22 lang sila. Ang nakasakay lang ay 22 lamang,” Idjirani said.

There are currently 193 followers in Sabah including Agamudin Kiram who instructed the Royal Sulu Army to hold their ground according to the sultanate.

The chief of Malaysian police also advised the Philippines to claim the bodies of their dead within three days or they will bury them.

Latest Malaysian police figures

According to the latest police figures, 61 suspected militants have been killed in Malaysia's biggest security crisis in years. Eight police officers and a soldier have also died.

Authorities have arrested more than 100 people on suspicion of having links to the militants.

The Philippines navy said on Wednesday it had detained 35 suspected Filipino militants as they tried to sail home. The group reportedly did not include Kiram.

A total of 800,000 Filipinos live in Sabah, making up about a quarter of the population of the state, which is just a short boat ride from the southern Philippines.

The crisis has embarrassed the Philippines and Malaysia, shining the spotlight on the latter's porous shoreline and locals' complaints of rampant illegal immigration and lawlessness.
- with reports from Agence France-Presse/Andrei Medina, VVP, GMA News
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