Gunman killed in Sabah

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian troops on Saturday killed a gunman and detained 27 more people suspected to be followers of a Philippine sultan who occupied a town in the eastern state of Sabah last month.

  • Published: 9/03/2013 at 08:39 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

The gunman had attempted to break through a security cordon in the village of Tanjung Batu in Lahad Datu, 1,600 kilometres east of Kuala Lumpur, when security officials shot him, said Inspector General Ismail Omar, the national police chief.

The killing came amid relentless shelling by Malaysian forces of Tanjung Batu and the adjacent village of Tanduo, where the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III are suspected to be hiding.

Ismail said security forces on Saturday also detained 27 unarmed people aboard three boats off the coast of Tanjung Batu.

"They claimed to be fishermen, but we are wondering what they were doing within the operational area," he said at a briefing in Lahad Datu.

The detention of the 27 brought to 106 the total number of people detained since the clashes between Kiram's followers and Malaysian security forces erupted on March 1.

Ismail added that a total of 53 Filipino gunmen and eight policemen had been killed since the fighting erupted.

On Feb 12, more than 200 armed followers of Kiram set up camp in Lahad Datu to assert their ancestral claim to Sabah.

The sultanate leased the land in 1878 to the British North Borneo Co, which then passed it to Malaysia after the country gained independence. Kuala Lumpur currently pays the sultan 5,300 ringgit (53,000 baht) per year in token rent.

On Thursday, the sultan called a unilateral ceasefire, but Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak rejected it and warned that the offensive would continue until the rebels surrender unconditionally.

New-York-based Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged Malaysia to respect the rights of suspects and "allow humanitarian access for the provision of emergency assistance to those affected by the violence".

"We're concerned about the Malaysian government's use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act to detain reportedly more than 50 individuals and call for the government to either charge them with a recognizable criminal offence or release them," said Phil Robertson, the group's deputy director for Asia.

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