Fri, 01 Mar 2013 08:24:57 GMT | By Alexander Chen, The Borneo Insider

UPDATED: Fire-fight in Tanduo

Two VAT69 commandos die from mortar wounds, blood loss, house owner where Abjimuddin stayed also killed; police decline confirmation for now

Bazuki Muhammad, REUTERS

FELDA SAHABAT, LAHAD DATU: Two Malaysian commandoes have been killed – but this could not be immediately confirmed by the top cops.

But in Manila, Philippine Defence Spokesman Raul Hernandez said two members of the Malaysian police, and “Pakcik Umrah” the owner of the house where the Sultan’s brother, Rajah Muda, stayed, had been killed. Hernandez said the DFA was also confirming the Sultan’s claim in Manila that 10 of his men died in the clash Friday morning. He said Malaysian Ambassador Mohammad Zamri bin Mohammad Kassim met with foreign affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario at the DFA to inform him that Malaysian authorities had attacked Tanduo where 180 men of Sultan Jamalul Kiram has been encamped since February 12.

Quoting the report of the Malaysian Ambassador, Hernandez said 10 of the Sultan’s men had surrendered. Earlier a Bernama reporter at Felda Sahabat 17, which is close to Tanduo where the Sulu Raiders are in a stand-off with Malaysian police, claimed he saw the bodies of the two dead men being carried into a police truck,

“Police have not confirmed the deaths. All we can say is that we saw two bodies being taken away and they had green boots on,” said the Reporter in his despatch to Bernama headquarters.

In our earlier report, it was said that one of the two dead was a VAT69 commando who suffered severe bleeding after he and several others were hit by mortar fire.

Unconfirmed reports carried by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said at least 10 of the Sulu Sultan’s followers have also died in the fire fight that started this morning. But the Sultan of Sulu denied reports that his brother Rajah Muda was arrested by Malaysian authorities. Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the sultan of Sulu, said the royal family was able to talk to Rajah Muda, who is leading a group of armed men who have been in Sabah since February 12 to stake an ancestral territorial claim.

“We talked to him. He is well. He is not wounded and he is still leading the struggle,” Idjirani said.

It is still unclear, who started the shooting. Both sides are claiming it was the other who opened fire first.

Even what time the shooting started is conflicting.

Some say it started at 10.00am but a Princess Jaycel Kiram said that information relayed to the royal family by Rajah Mudah Abjimuddin Kiram, the exchange of gunfire began at around 6am Friday.

In KUALA LUMPUR, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein when confirming the incident at Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu said Malaysian security forces did not fire any shots at the intruders.

"I confirm that our security forces did not fire a single shot but (they) were shot at about 10am this morning!," he said in his tweet, without mentioning whether an operation was underway to detain the armed intruders.

A son of rebel group leader Agbimuddin Kiram reportedly said that it was the Malaysian army, backed by the police, who opened fire. Broadcaster Solar News Channel’s online news site also reported that both sides have suffered fatalities. As word of the shooting filtered out, parents in Lahad Datu and surrounding Felda Sahabat oil palm plantations and nearby Tungku, rushed to pick up their children, forcing schools to close.

Many shops in Lahad Datu town about 165kms away from Felda Sahabat 17 had also closed. At the entrance to Felda Sahabat 17 where the Sulu group is holed up there heavy security presence with at least two ambulances of standby with a medical team. Meanwhile, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib has declined to comment and said a press conference will be held later.

SAPP chief Datuk Yong Teck Lee tweeted that MAS has suspended flights to Lahad Datu. He said several military flights landed this morning, according to locals. In Lahad Datu itself, a resident told Borneo Insider by telephone that the town was deserted after police advised the people to remain indoors “for the time being”. It is not yet confirmed whether a curfew has been imposed but patrols of heavily armed soldiers were seen at several locations in town. Shops and banks have rolled down their shutters.

In his first interview with radio dzBB on Friday at around 10:00 a.m., Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the leader of the group in Sabah, said they were being shot at and had to "defend" themselves. "Biglang pumasok sa amin (They suddenly came in), we had to defend ourselves," Raja said. Asked what time the Malaysian forces moved in, Raja said, "oras na ito (at this time)." Sounds of shots were heard in the background while the interview was being conducted. The first interview was cut, however.

In a second interview with radio dzBB on Friday, Raja said he had received reports some of his men were wounded but said there will be no retreat or call for a ceasefire. "Meron na (There have been casualties)," he said in an interview on dzBB radio when asked if some of his men had been wounded, several moments after a first interview was cut off. When asked if there were members of the Malaysian police who were wounded, he said, "ewan ko (I don't know)." Shots were still heard in the background in the second interview. When asked what his immediate plans were, he said, "lalaban (we'll still fight)." He said he himself was trading shots with the Malaysian forces.

"Tuloy pa rin (The fight will continue)," he added. When asked if he would call a ceasefire, he said, "Sino mag-ceasefire? Sila mag-ceasefire (Who'll call a ceasefire? They should be the ones to do so)."