Army set to end stand-off

CORDONED OFF: Intruders urged to surrender to avoid further bloodshed

(NST) – LAHAD DATU: AFTER almost 20 days of negotiations and a bloody encounter on Friday, the army moved into Felda Sahabat yesterday, giving  indication that the stand-off here was going to end soon.

Truckloads of army personnel were seen yesterday moving into the cordoned off area, where more than 100 members of the Sulu Army have been holed up.

This latest development came following Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s announcement on Friday that he was giving full mandate to the police and army to end the crisis, which has gripped the nation, as soon as possible.

The police and army are now working together to bring this crisis to an end.

The security forces, however, are still giving the gunmen the opportunity to surrender without further bloodshed.

Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib told reporters here yesterday that police had once again dropped leaflets from the air, urging the intruders to surrender.

The message was printed in English and Suluk language, which read “Lay down your arms. Surrender, surrender, surrender!”

“We are giving them a chance and if they still insist on staying put, we will have no choice but to take an aggressive approach,” Hamza said, adding that the situation was calm and there were no incidents of shooting yesterday.

Hamza said the bodies of the 12 intruders, who were killed in a shoot-out yesterday, were still at the scene.

“We are retrieving the bodies but we have to be careful.”

The shoot-out on Friday morning claimed the lives of Inspector Zulkifli Mamat, 28, and Corporal Sabarudin Daud, 47. Three security personnel were injured while 12 Sulu gunmen were killed.

Earlier, Corporal Awang Suradi Awang Wang, 43, from the General Operations Force Battalion 17, related how he went to the scene of the shooting to retrieve the bodies of the two policemen.

Awang Suradi, a Sarawakian who has been based in Felda Sahabat for almost 15 years, said he was assigned to retrieve the bodies as he knew the area well.

He said he could not control his emotions when he saw the bodies of his comrades.

“They were shot in the head. I recited some prayers before dragging the bodies to my Land Rover. I felt angry. I tied their hands over their chests, wrapped the bodies and took them to Lahad Datu hospital.

“I do not know the two well, but when the honour of our country is at stake, we are all brothers fighting for the same cause.”

Awang Suradi said even though he was angry with the Sulu intruders, he felt they, too, deserved a proper burial.

“But that will mean risking your life going back as the Sulu snipers are still around.”

Awang Suradi also said there were women among the dead Sulu invaders. Some were in army fatigues while others were in civilian clothes.

It was learnt that after Friday’s shoot-out, the security forces pushed the Sulu intruders 6km further into their hideout, tightening the cordon around them.