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    » 02/15/2013, 00.00

    MALAYSIA - PHILIPPINES

    Borneo: Kuala Lumpur against 200 Filipino Muslim militants holed up in village



    Calling itself the 'Sulu Royal Army', the group of armed fighters from Mindanao (Philippines) is apparently protecting a Muslim leader in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo Island, which is also home to a sizeable Christian minority. The authorities fear that Abu Sayyaf terrorists might be among the group. The terror group is held responsible for a number of abductions and attacks in Malaysia.

    Manila (AsiaNews) - Conflict between Muslim factions in predominantly Muslim Mindanao is affecting Malaysia, where the authorities recently reported the presence of some 200 Filipino Muslim militants in the state of Sabah (Borneo Island), which is also home to a sizeable Christian community.

    According to Indonesia's Interior Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, the group has been holed up in a small village on Sabah's east coast. To avoid bloodshed, "Security forces are [. . .] negotiating with them, some of whom are armed," he said.

    Unknown until now, the group that calls itself the 'Sulu Royal Army' has been added to the list of armed Muslim groups active on Borneo and in the Philippines.

    Their number has been rising since the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Filipino authorities reached a peace agreement. MILF is the major Islamic movement in the country, and the peace deal it has inked calls for its disarmament, something that has left a leadership vacuum in the region.

    At present, it is still unclear whether members of terror group Abu Sayyaf are among the Filipino militants in the Malaysian village. Sulu (Mindanao) is the former's stronghold and is not far from Malaysian territorial waters.

    Filipino authorities have not excluded that possibility and in recent days deployed a number of Navy vessels along its maritime borders. MILF troops are also in the area.

    In 2000, Muslims extremists abducted 21 Western tourists in Sipadan (Lahad Datu, Malaysia). The incident ended after months of negotiations between Malaysia, the Philippines and the kidnappers.

    Sources told AsiaNews that the Sulu Royal Army is "one of many private armies hired by local Muslim leaders who have close ties to Filipino rebels."

    In recent years, the waters that separate the Philippines from Malaysia have become a major conduit for weapons, drugs and people.

    Historically, Malaysian Muslim leaders have been allied to Filipino rebels whose goal is to re-establish the pre-colonial Sultanate of Sulu.

    Malaysian authorities warn that the arrival of people from Mindanao has heightened tensions in Sabah, home to a sizeable Christian minority, whose members now fear discrimination and abuses at the hands of Muslims. (S.C.)

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    See also

    16/01/2009 PHILIPPINES
    MILF condemns humanitarian workers abduction as no one claims responsibility
    The Moro Islamic Liberation Front offers to help in getting the release of the kidnap victims. Abu Sayyaf has not claimed responsibility for the action and local sources exclude politics or religion were involved. Police is investigating the possible involvement of an employee working at a prison the three workers had just visited.

    23/09/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Mindanao: 500,000 people without food because of the war
    The Filipino government is set to investigate into the situation of half a million displaced people who could starve to death as a result of fighting between army and MILF. Humanitarian organisations warn that with the end of Ramadan the situation might get worse.

    08/08/2005 PHILIPPINES
    Thousands of troops to supervise elections in Mindanao
    There are fears of violence, electoral fraud and Islamic terrorism. Ten suicide bombers from Indonesia might be in the country. Catholic sources warn that no one will be able to vote freely because electoral corruption is too ingrained—many will abstain.

    04/08/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Supreme Court blocks peace deal between MILF and government
    Court’s decision is intended to placate protest. Public opinion is largely against an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Both Christians and Muslims are against the deal.

    24/01/2006 PHILIPPINES
    Jailed Jolo Muslim rebel leader to be set free
    Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari will be freed on health grounds. Rebel leader throws his support behind Filipino President Arroyo and is in favour of US troop presence in Jolo.



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