Shootout in Malaysia as clan claims village | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 01.03.2013
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Shootout in Malaysia as clan claims village

A Filipino clan's bid to re-establish a 19th-century sultanate claim to land in Malaysia's Sabah state has ended in gun battle with 14 deaths. Malaysia and the Philippines had previously urged the clan to return home.

A shootout in Malaysia's eastern state of Sabah on the island of Borneo has claimed the lives of two policemen and 12 members of a Filipino Muslim royal clan, according to police.

Some 100 clan members had landed at the coastal village of Lahad Datu on February 9, claiming that it still belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu which once controlled parts of Borneo as well as southern Philippine islands.

On Friday, Malaysian police accused clan members of opening fire as police tightened a security cordon around the village.

Agbimuddin Kiram, a clan leader, told the Manila radio station DZBB that his members "had to defend ourselves" when police opened fire. "They suddenly came in," Kiram said.

Filipino government officials said 10 clan members surrendered to police. The rest had fled, pursued by Malaysian authorities, they said.

Sabah police chief Hamza Taib said the "intruders" had been contained in a small area. He contradicted Filipino officials, saying no one had surrendered.

"As a result of the fire, two of my men died, three were injured and ... 12 intruders died," Taib said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Rajib Razak, who is due to call national elections by April, told the state-run news agency Bernama earlier that he had given Malaysian security forces a mandate to take "any action" to end the three-week standoff at Lahad Datu.

"Do not test our patience," Najib was quoted as saying by Bernama. "Our patience has reached the limit."

Philippines seeks calm

Philippines Defense Ministry spokesman Peter Paul Galvez reiterated his government's appeal to the clan to return home by seeking a "peaceful solution to this incident."

The Philippines asked Malaysia to allow medics on board a navy ship near the village to be allowed to go ashore.

The Sabah territorial issue has hampered Philippine-Malaysia relations for decades. The crisis coincides with peace negotiations - brokered by Malaysia - between the government and the largest rebel group in the southern Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

ipj/dr (AP, Reuters)