Malaysia has sent hundreds more soldiers to Borneo to end an occupation by a group from the Philippines trying to reclaim land. In February, about 200 members of the sect arrived to reclaim a historical sultanate.
Security forces have killed 19 members of the group since Friday. Eight police officers have also been killed, including six ambushed over the weekend while inspecting a waterfront village in a separate Sabah district Saturday.
"The situation is under control now," said Hamza Taib, a regional police chief.
The Filipino nationals in the Lahad Datu territory are surrounded by security forces.
However, officials suspect that other members of the group may also be elsewehere within the Malaysian-controlled region of Borneo, an island divided three ways, with Indonesia controlling a chunk, and Brunei located on the north coast.
The group arrived by boat on February 9 to reclaim Lahad Datu, a town and district which members claim belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu, which became Malaysian territory in the mid-20th century.
‘Better option than death'
Edwin Lacierda, spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, called for the clan to surrender and return home, promising that the government would then look into their property claim.
"We continue to ask them that life is a better option than death," Lacierda told ABS-CBN TV. "These casualties, the wounded, the fatalities, are all the product of what we have been trying to avoid, the bloodshed."
He added that the government is also concerned for the safety of 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Sabah.
mkg/ipj (AP, AFP)