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Doubts emerge over Malaysian assault on invaders (ChannelNewsAsia)
FELDA SAHABAT, Malaysia – Malaysia’s military on Tuesday launched a fierce assault including jet fighters on up to 300 Filipino intruders after a deadly three-week standoff, but the militants’ supporters said they had escaped and were alive and well.
Earlier Malaysia’s national police chief had also raised doubts about the success of the air and ground attack, saying “mopping up” operations had yet to find any bodies and suggesting at least some of the militants might have slipped away.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said as the raid was under way that he had no choice but to unleash the military to end Malaysia’s biggest security crisis in years after the interlopers refused to surrender and 27 people were killed.
A day after the Philippines called for restraint, Malaysia launched a dawn assault on the estimated 100-300 gunmen on Borneo island, who invaded to claim Malaysian territory on behalf of a former Philippine sultanate.
Fighter jets bombed the standoff village of Tanduo in Sabah state on the northern tip of Borneo island, followed by a ground assault by troops. The area is set amid vast oil-palm plantations.
“The longer this invasion lasts, it is clear to the authorities that the invaders do not intend to leave Sabah,” Najib said in a statement.
But Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the sultan Jamalul Kiram III, told AFP the attack had occurred “away from where” their men were, saying he spoke with the leader of the armed group about eight hours after the assault was launched.