Sabah Conflict: 50 Sulu Royal Army Rebels Arrested in Malaysia
There have been around 60 casualties in Sabah, Malaysia, including 52 Filipino fighters and eight Malaysian police officers, as a result of fighting in the region that erupted a week ago. Today, Malaysian authorities made over 50 arrests in the province, linked to suspicions of the fatal invasion by Filipino fighters, according to Al Jazeera. Arrests took place amongst conflicts that ensued between security forces and members of the Sulu Royal Army, a Southern Filipino group that has claims territorial rights to Sabah.
The fighters, under the leadership of a self-proclaimed heir to the former southern Philippine sultanate of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III, who had a historical land claim to Sabah, landed on Borneo Island last month to stake their latent territorial claims. Al Jazeera has called the situation Malaysia's "worst security crisis in years".
The main group of fighters was nestled in a farming village for three weeks until two shootouts with security forces provoked a military invasion that diffused them throughout spacious oil palm plantations. Reports of other gunmen elsewhere along Sabah's coast have raised fears of more extensive aggression by the fighters along with the possibility that they may have had help from allies that are already in Malaysia.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino said his government formally requested Malaysia to establish humanitarian treatment for ten Filipinos the government says have been captured, although Malaysia has not confirmed the allegation. Malaysia has also rejected Jamalul Kiram III's call for a ceasefire in the farming region where the fighters were pursued.