Agbimuddin abandons men and flee to Philipines

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Agbimuddin KiramHUNT TO GO ON: Leader of terrorist group leaves his men to fend for themselves.

AGBIMUDDIN Kiram, the leader of the terrorist group which is still holed up in the Felda Sahabat area, has run back to the Philippines, leaving his men to fight his battle here.

“He has abandoned his men. He slipped out of Sabah recently for the Philippines,” said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar, adding this was based on intelligence reports from the police and armed forces.

Agbimuddin, the younger brother of Jamalul Kiram III, had led some 200-odd terrorists from Sulu and entered Kampung Tanduo where they had refused to surrender. During the initial stage of the standoff, Agbimuddin had said he and his men were willing to die rather than lay down their arms.

However, he was believed to have slipped out of the security cordon around the village by blending in with villagers before the area was hit by air strikes followed by a ground assault by security forces on March 5 to mark the beginning of Ops Daulat.

Intelligence revealed that he was hiding with several terrorists in Kampung Pinggir Bakau, Semporna. Police raided the village and arrested 33 people, including four of his key men. The rest were sympathisers of the Sulu terrorists.

When asked how and when Agbimuddin fled, Ismail said that was not important.

“What is important was that he abandoned his men and is now in southern Philippines,” he said at a press conference here.

Present were Armed Forces chief General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa.

Ismail said although Agbimuddin may have escaped, the hunt for the remaining terrorists in Sabah would go on.

“There are still some of them left and they are in small groups. They are trapped and we are closing in on them.”

Earlier, in Lahad Datu, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said they arrested eight Filipinos on a boat on Sungai Bilis on Thursday night.

He said the eight suspects, aged between 17 and 29, was unarmed but was carrying 300 empty jerry cans.

Police also found 369 pesos when they searched the suspects. The eight are being held under Immigration laws as police probe if they are linked to the Sulu terrorists.

Hamza also disclosed that Kampung Tanduo and Kampung Minyak had been cleared of enemy forces, although adding it was not safe for the villagers to return home just yet.

“A sufficient number of personnel have been stationed at both villages to ensure enemies do not return. Also, the villages are deemed unfit for habitation because of the damage caused by the terrorists. We will not allow the villagers to return yet.”

Hamza also revealed that security forces found three graves at Kampung Tanduo with 15 highly decomposed bodies in them. They are in the process of extricating the bodies for an autopsy.

“The victims were believed to have been dead for a while based on the high decomposition. Once the autopsies are complete, we will inform the Philippine embassy.”

With the discovery of the 15 bodies, the authorities believe that the total number of terrorists killed so far by Malaysian security personnel now stands at 61.

Hamza said once the Philippine authorities had been notified, they had three days to decide if the bodies would be taken back there or buried here.

“The body will be buried based on the deceased’s religion. If he is a Muslim, we will do the necessary prayers before it is buried in a Muslim cemetery.”  –  NST