(Bernama) - Malaysia has erected a line of defence along the entire east coast of Sabah from Kudat in the north to Tawau in the southeast to prevent any intrusion, especially from the island territories in the southern Philippines.
This Special Security Area was announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday following an intrusion by a Sulu militant group in Lahad Datu on Feb 12 which forced Malaysia to launch a military offensive after eight policemen were killed.
“The government will do what it takes to guarantee the security, peace and sovereignty of Sabah. The question of Sabah being within Malaysia should not be disputed by anybody,” Najib said after visiting ground zero at Felda Sahabat 16, in Lahad Datu.
The Special Security Area covers Kudat, Tawau, Kunak, Sandakan and Lahad Datu and the government will station five additional battalions comprising the army and police in the area.
In 1972, the government set up the Rajang Area Security Command (Rascom) in Sarawak and successfully defeated the communist terrorist threat in the state.
Rascom covered the areas of Sibu, Kanowit, Oya, Dalat, Bintagor, Sarikei, Julau, Song and Kapit, which were declared a Special Security Area by the then prime minister, Datuk Abdul Razak Hussein.
On Tuesday, security forces launched an aerial assault using F-18 and Hawk fighter aircraft as the first offensive to end the intrusion of the Sulu militants, and the security forces are still engaged in a mopping-up operation there.
Three days after the launch of the offensive, security forces faced pockets of resistance from the militants, and 32 of the intruders were killed in Kampung Tanduo and Tanjung Batu today.
Thirty-one of them were killed in a gun battle at about 11 am in Tanjung Batu and one at 6.45 am in Kampung Tanduo, raising the militant death toll to 52.
The security forces did not suffer any casualties, said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar.
The prime minister said the operation to hunt down the remaining militants would go on and Kuala Lumpur would not entertain any request for a ceasefire so long as the militants did not surrender unconditionally.
He said Malaysia respected the humanitarian principle and gave sufficient time for negotiations with the militants before launching the offensive.
“We gave them three weeks (to negotiate) and postponed (the offensive) four times. We only acted after they killed eight of our men,” said Najib, expressing his satisfaction with the outcome of the joint police and army operation.
Philippine media reports today quoted Jamalul Kiram III as asking his men in Lahad Datu to lay down their weapons after several members of the group were killed in an operation by security forces on Tuesday.
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has proposed that the parties involved in the situation in Sabah come to a peaceful solution.