Sunday March 3, 2013
We will fight to the death, declares Sulu gunmen leader
By P.K. KATHARASON, MUGUNTAN VANAR, RUBEN SARIO, FARIK ZOLKEPLI, AUSTIN CAMOENS, STEPHANIE LEE, WONG PEK MEI and TASHNY SUKUMARAN
FELDA SAHABAT (Lahad Datu): The Sulu armed intruders have spurned calls for them to surrender despite being cornered, setting the stage for possibly more bloodshed.
As the Tandou standoff entered its 18th day yesterday, group leader Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram declared that he and his followers would fight to the death.
Prime Minister Datuk Najib Tun Razak's ultimatum for them to surrender was followed by similar calls from Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar as well as Philippine president Benigno Aquino.
But Azzimudie remained stubborn with his latest text message to his elder brother Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Manila at 5am, stating that they would stay and die in Tanduo.
He claimed in the reported text that, after burying 10 of his followers including a woman at sundown, everyone of the 224 left decided to die in Lahad Datu in pursuit of their dreams.
After a first-hand briefing on the details of Ops Sulu on the ground, Hishamuddin said there was no choice for the remaining Sulu group “except to lay down their arms and surrender or face whatever action our authorities will take”.
“I will remain in Sabah until this matter is resolved,” added Hishammuddin who, with security and government officials, had patiently tried to resolve the standoff without bloodshed.
Two elite police commandos Insp Zulkifli Mamat, 29, and Kpl Sabaruddin Daud, 46, were killed and three other commandos Kpl Mohd Tamrizi Hashim, 32, Kpl Azman Ampong, 29, and constable Mohamad Qaiyum'aiqal Zolkifli, 22 were injured in the first clash on Friday morning while 12 from the Sulu group were killed and two others injured.
The intruders are trapped within the village in the Felda Sahabat 17 scheme.
Giving them a last chance to surrender while an undeclared ceasefire remained throughout yesterday, the IGP said they must lay down their arms immediately or face the consequences as they had broken Malaysian laws and committed serious offences.
“They have been given too much time,” Ismail said when asked how much more time the group would get, adding that police had no option but to take action to detain the intruders.
On a report quoting Jamalul Kiram as saying the intruders had agreed to surrender but with conditions, Ismail said: “I have not seen it from the group (in Tanduo). That is my assessment and my warning to them is to surrender or face the consequences. I will not heed third parties who are not there (in Tanduo).”
On reports that 10 of the intruders had surrendered, Ismail said no one had surrendered.
He said police were in full control of the situation and the Sulu group was now confined to only the Tanduo village.
Reminding the public to stay out of the Tanduo seaside village, he said no curfew had been imposed anywhere in Sabah but no one was allowed to enter the village.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib, meanwhile, said the police were now working with the military for “firmer action” to resolve the standoff.
Hamza said police helicopters were continuing to drop leaftlets over the village carrying the message “Surrender, surrender, surrender, lay down your arms.”
Aquino in a statement in Manila yesterday admonished the Sulu group for choosing the wrong path to stake their claim on Sabah and urged Jamalul Kiram to order his brother to “surrender now without conditions”.
“If you have grievances, the path you chose was wrong,” he said.
The Star's attempt to contact Azzimudie through his phone failed but a spokesman for the Kiram family, Abraham Idjirani, quoted Azzimudie as saying that 224 of his followers were still in the village and 10 had been captured.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman visited injured Tamrizi and Azman at the Lahad Datu hospital and doctors said both of them were recuperating from bullet and shrapnel injuries while Mohamad was recovering at the Sandakan hospital.
He added that the state government would provide aid to the families of the commandos.
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