Sunday March 10, 2013
Lahad Datu: Hunt intensifies for remnants of armed group
SEMPORNA: The hunt for the remnants of the armed Sulu group has intensified with elite forces returning to Kampung Simunul to conduct a house-to-house search.
Security forces were at the same time making a sweep of rugged terrain between two coastal villages.
Tightening the noose, they shot dead a Sulu gunman and detained 27 people as Operation Daulat entered its fifth day yesterday
The search at Simunul, a three-minute drive from Semporna town, began around 7am and was carried out by about 100 personnel from the Special Branch, General Operations Force and Marine Police, including their forensics team.
A large group of onlookers gathered at the entrance of the stilted village, where six policemen died in an ambush about a week ago.
Simunul headman Panglima Ramli Sarahman said he had instructed the village security committee to help policemen pinpoint houses that had been vacated.
He added: “I gave instructions the night before to give police our full cooperation.
“The police had told me to inform the villagers not to be alarmed, to stay in their homes and not follow them during the operation (which ended at about 1pm).”
On the dead Sulu gunman, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said he was killed at about 8am between Tanjung Batu and Kampung Tanduo while trying to slip through a tight security cordon. This brings to 53 the number of armed intruders killed.
The IGP said that security forces intercepted three boats off Tanjung Batu and detained 27 men at about 2.10pm.
'They claimed to be fishermen but we are wondering what they were doing within the operational area,'' he said at a joint media briefing with Armed Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin.
Ismail said the detained men had been sent to the Lahad Datu district police headquarters for further investigations.
Excluding the latest arrests, security forces have detained 79 people since the offensive against the armed Sulu group began on March 5.
On the fate of Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram, the leader of the armed group, Ismail said it was still unknown.
“There are still bodies in the area (Kampung Tanduo) that we have not identified,” he added.
Meanwhile, Jen Zulkifeli said the security forces were now focusing on a 5km swath of uneven terrain, which has a secondary jungle and a swamp, between Tanduo and Tanjung Batu to flush out the remaining gunmen.
“We believe they are within that area and we are conducting a major sweep there,'' he said.
He said the remnants of the armed group were believed to be moving in pairs or in small units.
“We believe they are trying to avoid security forces by moving between the two villages,'' Zulkifeli added.