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Sultanate claims Malaysian Navy shot 35 Sulu fighters

The Sulu sultanate on Friday said it was the Malaysian Navy that shot and killed 35 men who were on their way to Sabah, then dumped their bodies in Philippine waters to make it appear as if they were killed by Filipinos. Abraham Idjirani, a spokesman for Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, attributed the information to civilian sympathizers who claimed to have witnessed the shooting Wednesday night. He said the information was relayed through one of the lieutenants of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the sultan’s brother, who leads the armed contingent battling Malaysian forces in Sabah. “According to our contact, it was the Malaysian Navy who killed those men. Then they dumped the bodies on the territorial waters of the Philippines to make it appear that it was our Navy who did it,” Idjirani said. Idjirani said the Malaysian government concocted the story to further alienate the Sulu sultanate from the Philippine government and speed up the implementation of the Malaysian-brokered peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which he said had left out the sultanate. “A group of civilians saw the encounter. Then a Malaysian Navy speedboat loaded up several of the bodies and sped towards Philippine waters, where they dumped them,” Idjirani said. On Thursday, Malaysian news site Star Online quoted Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying that the armed men, sent to disrupt elections in Malaysia, were shot by Philippine Navy and Coast Guard personnel before they could enter Malaysian waters. Zahid cited intelligence reports that the “Sulu militants” were out to terrorize the Malaysian general election on May 5. The Armed Forces of the Philippines denied that such an incident took place. `“Our Task Force Commander in Tawi-Tawi said that he does not have any such information pertaining to the reported death of 35 militants,” said Col. Edgar Arevalo, spokesman on the Sabah issue. The Naval Task Force based in Tawi-Tawi also categorically denied the report, adding that the prevailing peace and order environment in his jurisdiction remained “favorable.” “We have not monitored of any incident transpiring in Tawi- Tawi as the situation here is peaceful,” Navy Capt Renato Yonke, commander of Task Force 62 tasked to guard the southern back door shoreline of any militants departing for Malaysia. Yonkie said that if the report was true, the information would surely spread quickly among the residents in Taw-Tawi and as far as Basilan and Jolo. On Friday, the state-run news agency Bernama quoted Police Inspector General Tan Stri Ismail Omar as saying the Malaysian Armed Forces chief Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, would confer with Philippine officials about the incident. Ismail said the Zulkifeli would confirm reports of the 35 deaths. Zulikfeli had been quoted in a report by the The Star Online as saying 35 “Sulu militants” were killed while trying to enter Sabah. Also on Friday, the sultanate urged the Aquino administration to stay away from any efforts to reclaim Sabah so as not to complicate the resolution of the territorial dispute. Idjirani said President Benigno Aquino III, who has described the territorial claim as a complicated issue, should publicly pronounce that the government would no longer interfere in finding peaceful ways to end the standoff.  
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