While the Muslim community was celebrating the end of Ramadan last Friday, clashes between the Malaysian forces and the fighters of Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd erupted anew in Lahad Datu, Sabah.
Kiram’s spokesman Abraham Idjirani on Sunday said eight members of the Malaysian forces were killed after they were ambushed by at least 50 members of the Sultanate’s Royal Security Force (RSF) and volunteers composite headed by Utuh Ubie, RSF’s top officer.
He said the incident was relayed to him by RSF commander Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of the Sultan during their conversation over the phone.
Raja Muda leads the 1,600-strong RSF that is holed up in Sabah in an attempt to regain its claim over the territory from Malaysia.
The ambush took place early morning Friday at Felda area in Lahad Datu, Sabah.
Idjirani, who is also the secretary general of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, said while the RSF always takes defensive positions, it decided to attack the Malaysian troops, fearing they could be outnumbered.
“The Malaysian’s operations was a total violation of the principles of Islam. So the RSF decided to attack,” he said.
Idjirani said that in the tenets of Islam, after the commemoration of Ramdan Muslims have seven days in which to seek forgiveness from the people they have sinned against.
Prior to the incident, Idjirani said a relative of Raja Muda who lives in Lahad Datu had informed Raja Muda that the Malaysian troops will launch a new offensive against the RSF.
The relative also said the Malaysian Forces have intensified their coastal perimeter defense from Tawau to Sandakan after receiving reports that more Kiram fighters are set to enter Sabah to join the fight in “reclaiming” the island.
To reassert its territorial claim over Sabah, Idjirani said the Sultanate will be sending more volunteer fighters from Mindanao to the territory.
He said that a group of Bangsa Suluk volunteers from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Zamboanga Peninsula are preparing to sail for Sabah.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak last March 1 ordered an all-out offensive to flush out the Sulu fighters, who were initially holed up in Lahad Datu.
Subsequent clashes resulted in the death of 68 RSF men and 10 Malaysian policemen and soldiers.
At least 29 Filipinos, including Kiram’s nephew, are facing trial for terrorism-related charges filed against them before a Malaysian High Court for their alleged participation in the Sabah intrusion.
At least eight more have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
RITCHIE A. HORARIO