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Sultan Kiram's camp declares unilateral ceasefire in Sabah

(Updated 4:29 p.m.) The camp of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III on Thursday declared a unilateral ceasefire amid an ongoing assault by Malayisan security forces against his followers in Sabah. At a press conference in Taguig City, Sulu sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said the unilateral ceasefire took effect 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Kiram's camp said the ceasefire declaration was in response to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call earlier in the day to end the ongoing conflict in Sabah. But hours after Kiram's camp declared a unilateral ceasefire, Malaysia rejected the offer, an Agence France-Presse report said. "A unilateral ceasefire is not accepted by Malaysia unless the militants surrender unconditionally," Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on his Twitter feed as quoted by AFP. Earlier in a report aired on GMA News TV's "Balitanghali," GMA News reporter She Torres quoted Idjirani as saying that the declaration means Kiram's followers, led by Sultan Kiram's brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, will no longer attack the Malaysian forces. Idjirani said they are hoping the Malaysian government will reciprocate with its own declaration of a ceasefire. "According to his Royal Highness Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, the achievement that the Sultanate of Sulu or the group of Raja Muda obtained during the last few days cannot compare with how Sultan Jamalul Kiram III values the lives of those who were murdered during the March 1st Friday massacre," he said. During the same press conference, Sultan Kiram said he appreciates the statement of the UN since they have been writing to the international body for many years. "I'm very happy with that," he said. Defensive position In a separate report on dzBB, Idrijani said that while Kiram's camp heeded the UN's call, it also ordered its followers in Sabah to maintain a "defensive position." "They will remain in the place where they are now," Idjirani said. He added that as of 12:30 p.m. Thursday, the Malaysian navy had continued its "bombardment" of their followers' position in Sabah. He said the declaration by Sultan Kiram of a unilateral ceasefire shows goodwill on their part. At least 40 people have died in the fighting that erupted last Friday, according to a Reuters report. The latest casualties consisted of 13 militants who were killed in air strikes and a ground assault by Malaysian security forces Tuesday, an official said. — LBG/RSJ, GMA News