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100 men reinforce royal army in Sabah

The fighters of the Sulu Sultanate in Sabah are back to fighting strength after being reinforced by about 100 more men from Sulu, the sultanate said Friday. Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, had regrouped his forces, which had dwindled to around 135 men since the fighting broke out in Lahad Datu on March 1. Idjirani said the new development was relayed to him by Agbimuddin by phone. “We can say our Royal Security Forces are back in fighting strength. They have joined forces and regrouped,” Idjirani said. But Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, on Friday said they had no reports to confirm the insertion of 100 more sultanate fighters in Sabah. “We have no confirmatory report about that,” Gregorio said. “As far as our naval blockade is concerned, it is continuing in a daily and even nightly basis.” Still, Gregorio admitted they could not discount the possibility of the insertion happening. “We cannot really prevent their entry because of the porousness of the area,” he said. “But we’re doing everything to prevent these reinforcements of the sultanate.” Idjirani said the Sultanate of Sulu expected more supporters from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to sail to Sabah despite the naval cordon put up by the Philippine and Malaysian navies. “What they lack in Sabah is food,” he said. “They do not have enough provisions because of the tight cordon of the Malaysian security forces.” Agbimuddin landed in Tanduo village in Lahad Datu from Simunul, Sulu, on Feb. 9 with 235 men and women, mostly Tausug fighters armed with an assortment of light firearms and swords. The sultanate said the expedition was meant to revive its longstanding claim to Sabah. Based on the Malaysian government’s tally, at least 68 sultanate fighters had been killed in encounters with the Malaysian police and military, although less than 50 bodies have been recovered. Nine Malaysian policemen and soldiers have also been killed. Idjirani said there had been a lull in the fighting since last week, which could be a sign that the Malaysia had accepted the unilateral ceasefire announced by the sultan early last month. “There has been no fighting. Malaysian guns have fallen silent for now,” he said. With Florante S. Solmerin
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