Air, land offensive on intruders’ position; mission achieves objectives, says IGP
LAHAD DATU: Malaysia’s military launched a fierce assault yesterday on up to 300 Filipino intruders locked in a three-week deadly standoff that has become the country’s biggest security crisis in years.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he had no choice but to unleash the military to try to end an incursion that had already killed 27 people.
“It is clear to the authorities that the invaders do not intend to leave Sabah,” Najib said, adding that negotiations with the estimated 100-300 intruders had gone nowhere.
“The government must take action to safeguard the dignity and sovereignty of the country as required by the people.”
The coordinated attack involving police’s VAT 69 commandos, General Operations Force, army and Royal Malaysian Air Force began with air strikes, followed by the artillery shelling.
At least two fighter jets were seen roaring overhead early yesterday, followed by the thud of loud explosions.
After the operation Malaysian security forces were seen scouring an area of about four square kilometres within the Kampung Tanduo area.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar, meanwhile, disclosed that the security forces encountered strong resistance from the Sulu gunmen.
“We are mopping up and checking several houses within the area, and as of now we cannot ascertain the number of casualties and injured among the intruders,” he said.
“It is still going on now and so far there had been no reports of casualties from our side,” Ismail told reporters during a brief press conference at the Felda Residence Sahabat here, late yesterday morning.
Ismail also said there were no civilian casualties, as villagers had been advised to evacuate the area prior to the attack.
“The intruders were determined not to surrender, and it is reflected through the two attacks against us in the past few days, despite our best efforts to avoid bloodshed including negotiations and carpeting the area with thousands of leaflets urging them to lay down their arms.
“We appeal to the people to stop speculating and making assumptions on the operations, especially on the number of deaths and injuries because such false information would affect the operation,” he said.
He also denied reports by the Philippines news agency that the airstrikes had missed their targets.
“Based on our draft, we have achieved our objectives according to the targets set in our operation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces chief Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said enemy positions were bombed to minimize the danger for the Malaysian security forces as they advanced into the area held by the intruders.