Ambulances drive towards an area where the stand-off with Filipino Sulu gunmen and Malaysian security forces was taking place in Tanduo village on Tuesday, March 5, 2013. Twenty bodies of the Sulu gunmen have been recovered in a remote coastal village in Sabah after large-scale operations by the Malaysian security forces on Tuesday to flush out the militants holed up there for weeks, according to local media. -- PHOTO: AFP
(ST) - Twenty bodies of the Sulu gunmen have been recovered in a remote coastal village in Sabah after large-scale operations by the Malaysian security forces on Tuesday to flush out the militants holed up there for weeks, according to local media.
News portal Malaysiakini and Utusan Malaysia daily both quoted sources as saying that the bodies were found during the army's mop-up operations after the airstrike and mortar strike Tuesday morning.
The authorities have yet to confirm it. Police chief Ismail Omar said at a press briefing in the afternoon that the house-to-house checks were still going on, and it was not known if some of the gunmen had fled to other villages.
"The movement of the operations is being done with great caution, taking the terrain into account," he said.
There have been conflicting reporters on whether the leader Raja Muda Azzumudie is among the dead.
The New Straits Times also reported that fresh rounds of explosions have been heard around Kampung Sinakut, which is about 6km from Kampung Tanduo where fighting took place Tuesday morning.
Malaysia had sent seven army battalions to eastern Sabah to flush out the militants after a gunfight over the weekend killed at least 26 people, including eight Malaysian policemen.
The battle came after a long stand-off with the group of over 100 armed Filipinos who had landed in Sabah on Feb 9, to "reclaim" their ancestral land as followers of an heir to the Sulu Sultanate of southern Philippines. Sulu had controlled parts of Sabah hundreds of years ago.
Malaysian forces began moving in last week after failing to persuade them to leave.