x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Malaysia sends army to Borneo after Filipino clan kills 8 police

The main group of intruders comprises 200 members of a Philippine Muslim clan, who landed at a remote Malaysian coastal village in eastern Sabah state last month and insisted the territory was theirs.

A family member cries while paying her last respects in front of the coffin of Superintendent Ibrahim Lebar, the Malaysian policeman who was killed in an ambush in Semporna. Malaysia sent hundreds of soldiers to a Borneo state on Monday to fight armed Filipino intruders. Lai Seng Sin / AP Photo
A family member cries while paying her last respects in front of the coffin of Superintendent Ibrahim Lebar, the Malaysian policeman who was killed in an ambush in Semporna. Malaysia sent hundreds of soldiers to a Borneo state on Monday to fight armed Filipino intruders. Lai Seng Sin / AP Photo

KUALA LUMPUR // Malaysia sent hundreds of soldiers to a Borneo state today to help neutralise armed Filipino intruders who have killed eight police officers in the country's bloodiest security emergency in years.

Nineteen Filipino gunmen have also been slain since Friday in skirmishes that shocked Malaysians unaccustomed to such violence in their country, which borders insurgency-plagued southern provinces in the Philippines and Thailand.

The main group of intruders comprises nearly 200 members of a Philippine Muslim clan, some bearing rifles, who slipped past naval patrols last month, landed at a remote Malaysian coastal village in eastern Sabah state's Lahad Datu district and insisted the territory was theirs.

Public attention focused yesterday on how to minimise casualties while apprehending the trespassers, who are surrounded by security forces as well as an undetermined number of other armed Filipinos suspected to have encroached on two other districts within 300 kilometres of Lahad Datu.

Army reinforcements from other states in Malaysia were being deployed to Sabah and would help police bolster public confidence by patrolling various parts of the state's eastern seaboard, Sabah police chief Hamza Taib said.

"The situation is under control now," Mr Hamza said. "There will be cooperation" between the military and the police.

He declined to elaborate on specific strategies or on a call by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for lethal action.

"There is no way out other than launching a counter-attack to eliminate" the intruders, Malaysia's national news agency Bernama quoted Mahathir as saying Sunday. "Although many of them will be killed, this cannot be avoided because they had attacked Sabah, and not the other way round."

Malaysia's current leader, Prime Minister Najib Razak, declared over the weekend that security forces were authorised to "take any action deemed necessary".

The Philippine government on Monday requested Malaysia exercise maximum tolerance to avoid further bloodshed.