Sabah stand-off: 32 gunmen killed, body count now 52
LAHAD DATU, Malaysia: Malaysia's security forces shot dead 32 Filipino gunmen on Wednesday and Thursday, as they continued to battle the insurgents hiding out in two remote villages in eastern Sabah for the last one month.
Federal police chief Ismail Omar said at least 52 of the gunmen had now been killed since the hostilities escalated last Friday. He said no Malaysians were injured.
"Our efforts are looking for the remnants of the enemies and we believe some are still hiding in Tanjung Batu and Tanduo," he said at a press briefing Thursday.
He also said one of those shot dead Thursday was a man believed to be holding the rank of general in the army of the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram.
The militants have been hiding out since last month in the remote villages of Tanduo and Tanjung Batu, about 160km from the coastal town of Lahad Datu.
They had invaded Sabah as the army of the Sultan to "reclaim" Sabah for the Sulu Sultanate which ruled North Borneo several centuries ago. A gun battle broke out last weekend, killing at least 27 people including eight Malaysian policemen.
The Malaysian security forces launched a large-scale military operation on Tuesday to flush them out. Gun battles broke out Wednesday night and Thursday morning, as the armed forces continued scouring the area for the terrorists.
The Armed Forces chief Gen Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said the gunmen are trapped in a small area within these two villages.
Asked if the airstrike on Tuesday killed anyone, he said it was not intended to kill but to neutralise the enemy so the security forces can enter the area to secure it without any extra risk of casualties.