MANILA - The royal army of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III has been “totally routed”, Malaysia’s The Star online reported Tuesday.
The number of casualties is still unknown. Quoting police, the website said there are no deaths on the side of the Malaysians.
Malaysian troops launched an attack on the Filipino group on Tuesday, trying to end a standoff on Borneo island after violence in recent days that killed at least 27 people.
The operation to take over an area occupied by about 180 Filipinos, dozens of them armed, began at 7 a.m. (2300 GMT Monday), a spokesman for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said. The government sent seven army battalions to the area in eastern Sabah state on Monday to reinforce police.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he ordered the assault in Kampung Tanduo village Tuesday morning after followers of Raja Muda Agdbimuddin Kiram showed no intention to leave Sabah.
He said at least 8 Malaysian policemen were killed in Lahad Datu and Semporna in separate attacks since Friday.
"After the first attack, I have reaffirmed that the intruders must surrender or we will act," he said in the statement.
He added: "The government must take action to defend the country's dignity and sovereignty as demanded by the people."
Najib said that before the recent assault, the Malaysian government arranged for meetings and discussions with Kiram's men in the hope that they would agree to leave peacefully.
"As an Islamic country that loves peace and uphold the struggle to end conflicts through negotiations, our effort to prevent bloodshed in Lahad Datu failed. Our security forces were attacked and our men killed. Malaysians, especially in Sabah, are worried for their safety," he said. – with Reuters