MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Malaysian security forces launched fresh attacks on the more than 100 Filipino gunmen holed up in Lahad Datu and nearby villages in Sabah on Tuesday, March 5, deploying fighter jets and more troops to the area. The assault forced villagers to flee their homes, Malaysian media reported.
“At 7 am this morning, our security forces have launched an attack (on the intruders)” in Lahud Datu, Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement.
A Malaysian reporter told Rappler explosions were heard. The Star of Malaysia said fighter jets were seen circling the Feld Sahabat area at around 7 am, adding that residents heard at least 4 explosions in Kampung Tanduo, which is beside Lahad Datu.
Najib stressed that “the government must take action to defend the country’s dignity and sovereignty as demanded by the people” and indicated that all efforts to prevent bloodshed had “failed.”
“Since the intrusion by a group of gunmen in Lahad Datu on February 12, the government has taken an approach to resolve the conflict without any bloodshed. The police have arranged for meetings and discussions hoping that the intruders would agree to leave peacefully without facing serious action,” the Malaysian leader said.
But as the crisis continued, “it was clear that the intruders had no intention to leave Sabah” and after the first attack on Friday, Najib insisted that “the intruders must surrender or we will act.”
“As an Islamic country that loves peace and uphold the struggle to end conflicts through negotiations, our effort to prevent bloodshed in Lahad Datu failed. Our security forces were attacked and our men killed. Malaysians, especially in Sabah, are worried for their safety,” the statement concluded.