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Southeast Asia
Malaysia in standoff with suspected Philippine terrorists
2013-02-15
Malaysian security forces have surrounded dozens of suspected Philippine terrorists militants in a remote area.

Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said about 80 to 100 gunmen have been cornered in the state of Sabah on Borneo island. He said security forces were negotiating with the men near the small coastal town of Lahad Datu. Hishammuddin said, "We know the situation is still under control. I confirm that no Malaysian citizens, to my knowledge, are being held hostage or for ransom. Security forces are still in control and negotiating with them, some of whom are armed."

He declined to confirm that the gunmen were from the adjacent southern Philippines. But asked whether authorities were involved in negotiations, Hishammuddin said, "Of course they will have to be involved in the operations."

Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Najib Razak said, "We have surrounded the area and our police and armed forces have the ability to handle the matter." A tight security ring including army and naval forces has been thrown around the "heavily armed" group.

A statement by National police chief Ismail Omar Wednesday had said the men had surrendered when ordered and the situation was defused. The government has not yet explained the about-face.

A Philippine military official said that Manila did not rule out the possibility that the men could be members of the Abu Sayyaf. Philippine southern command military chief Lieutenant General Rey Ardo said, "We have received similar reports but we cannot confirm, nor rule out, whether they are members of the ASG (Abu Sayyaf group). Other lawless elements as well as (Filipino) pirates are also known to stray into Malaysian waters."
Posted by:ryuge

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