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Firefight breaks out in Sabah

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 2 - 11:25 a.m.) A firefight broke out between followers of the Sulu sultanate and Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu town in Sabah Friday morning.

But as of past 11 a.m. Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said the shooting, which broke out past 10 a.m., had stopped.

Interviewed over radio station dzRH, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who led close to 200 followers of the sultanate in occupying the village of Tanduo in Lahad Datu in mid-February, said at least one person had been wounded.

In a separate interview over dzBB, shots could be heard in the background before Kiram was cut off.

Abraham Idjirani, the sultan's spokesman, reiterated an appeal for a diplomatic resolution to the Sabah standoff but said the sultanate’s followers are willing to fight to the death.

In a subsequent briefing, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, warned that "they have awakened the giant" and that any fighting could escalate and spread “all the way to Kota Kinabalu” and "will also become our problem."

At the same time, Kiram said they remained open to negotiations.

He also accused the government of being insensitive to the sultanate's claim to Sabah.

"The government should study the issue very well," Kiram said. "They ask us to leave our own place? What if we ask them, the President, to leave, will they like that?"

The government has repeatedly asked Kiram to call on his followers to return from Sabah and President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the sultan investigated for possible violations of the Constitution and the Revised Penal Code.

Malacanang has also said it would talk to Kiram only if his followers leave Sabah and said the sultan alone would be responsible for anything untoward.

Interviewed over radio station dzBB, Princess Jacel Kiram, the sultan's daughter, said she was “disappointed” that fighting had broken out but added, “everything that happens is God’s will.”

She said prayers were being said in their home in Maharlika Village, Taguig City.

 Abigail Kwok | | March 1, 2013 | Article Link


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