Published: Saturday February 16, 2013 MYT 8:23:00 PM
Updated: Saturday February 16, 2013 MYT 10:57:30 PM
Ahmad Zahid: Armed men in Lahad Datu could have local backing
By JOSEPH KAOS Jr
KUALA BERANG: The armed men said to be linked to the Sulu Sultanate who landed in Lahad Datu could have the backing of locals with political motives, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
He said the incident may have been a ploy to portray Malaysia as a country in crisis with security issues.
"I think this group of armed men did not act alone and there are certain people with political motives behind them.
"Do not believe what has been written in the social media and pro-opposition blogs.
"These men are not terrorists," Ahmad Zahidi told a press conference.
"The group are from southern Philippines and from the Sultanate of Sulu. They believe they still have a claim on Sabah.
"We hope we can persuade them to leave the country peacefully without causing any bloodshed.
"We hope they do not get fooled by people out to use them for their own political gains," he added.
He said the police are leading the negotiations with the group and hoped it would come to a swift conclusion.
"Our country is peaceful and our defence system is solid. But there are people who want to portray it otherwise," he added.
Some 100 armed men landed in Lahad Datu on recently and claimed they were the "Royal Sulu Sultanate Army"
Philippines claim on Sabah a thorn in relations
Sulu Sultan called in to help
Group claims royal Sulu ties, says IGP
Gunmen want recognition, will only leave if demands are met
Police have back-up plan if negotiations with armed group in Lahad Datu stall
Manila urges gunmen in Lahad Datu to return home
Life as usual for 5,000 villagers amid armed standoff
IGP: Armed men in Lahad Datu followers of 'a descendent of Sultan of Sulu'