Published: Sunday March 3, 2013 MYT 5:57:00 PM
Updated: Sunday March 3, 2013 MYT 8:24:52 PM
Conflicting reports of hostage situation in Semporna
SEMPORNA: Conflicting reports are emerging from the Philippines on the situation close to a school in Simunul village where police said five of their men were believed to have been killed in a shootout with armed Sulu intruders.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar, when asked if the intruders had taken any hostages, told reporters in Lahad Datu: "None for now no such information."
Ismail said five police personnel were believed killed along with two intruders.
However, in the afternoon, the Philippines media quoted Abraham Idjirani, the spokesman of Sultan Jamalul Kiram, as claiming that the sultan's men were holding four hostages after fighting erupted.
He also claimed that the captured officials comprised “a police officer, two military officials and one government official." He also said two men and two children were also killed in the shooting.
Abraham stated that the four hostages were not harmed.
He claimed that “thousands of the Sultan's followers” from Jolo, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi were heading to Sabah to aid the Sulu armed group led by Rajah Muda Azzimudie now holed up in Kg Tanduo since Feb 9,
Commenting on the claim, President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda reportedly said: "We will ask the DFA (foreign department) to validate.”
Malaysian security forces had enforced a lockdown around Semporna town where the police and army have surrounded a water village .
As of 3pm, villagers said a body was still lying on the sand and another on the wooden stilt walkway.
No official confirmation was available of a hostage situation in the village. Some 1,000 families have fled the village in the aftermath of Saturday night's gunfight with about 15 armed intruders.
About 100kms from here in Kunak, the police and army were also on a manhunt for about 100 armed intruders who entered Kunak at about 10pm Saturday.
In sahabat 17 about 300kms from here, the army was coordinating with police on the next course of action against the Sulu armed group cornered in Tanduo.