PH team arrives in Sabah, checks refugees' condition
MANILA – A team formed by the Philippine government arrived in the disputed territory of Sabah on Tuesday to check on the condition of Filipinos who fled conflict-affected areas in the Malaysian territory.
A radio dzMM source said the 15-man humanitarian team arrived yesterday in an area 110 kilometers away from Lahad Datu, the town where some 235 followers of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III landed on February 12 to assert their ownership of Sabah.
The Malaysian government earlier gave the green light for the entrance of the humanitarian team, composed of representatives from the Departmenf of Foreign Affairs, Philippine National Police, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The humanitarian team was met by around 600 Filipinos and 200 Malaysians who fled Lahad Datu, Semporna and Sandakan at the height of the armed clashes between Malaysian security forces and members of the royal army, led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.
On Tuesday, three alleged supporters of the sultan and a Malaysian soldier were killed in a fresh outbreak of violence in Lahad Datu, Malaysian authorities said. The fighting occurred near Kampung Tanjung Batu.
Authorities did not provide an overall death toll from the month-long drama, but reports and government statements had indicated an earlier count of 63 killed prior to Tuesday's clash -- mostly intruders.
Authorities have also arrested at least 97 people throughout the state and are investigating if they have links to the incursion. - report from Edwin Sevidal, dzMM