KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian security forces received no orders to attack the Sulu gunmen in Tanduo but retaliated when they were fired upon on March 1 last year.
The police VAT69 commando Supt Mancha Laga, who was among the security teams which encountered the Sulu gunmen in Kampung Tanduo of Lahad Datu on that day, said that although the skirmishes involved several teams, it was not because they had received an order to attack the intruders.
“The teams A, B, C and D had closed in on the location where the armed intruders were on March 1, and while on reconnaissance, my team and I encountered the gunmen,” Mancha said when testifying on the third day of the trial of 30 people involved in the Feb occupation of Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu.
(On Thursday, Mancha had told the High Court Judge justice Stephen Chung that the intruders shot at them seconds after they came face-to-face and told to leave “their” land).
Mancha said they had no choice but to take cover and retaliate. Other teams around the village were also involved in similar skirmishes at about the same time.
When asked by defence counsel Datuk N Sivanathan whether the similar time of attack and skirmish occurred meant that they (security forces) had in fact received an order to attack first on March 1, Mancha replied; ``No.’’
When asked by Sivanathan why he and his team did not pursue the gunmen when they ceased fire and started to run away, Mancha told the court that it was because he was worried that they might ambush the team.
“From my 28 years of experience as a VAT Commando, I know that there was always a possibility that the enemy could have planned an ambush or backup,” he said, adding that the gunmen ran towards Kampung Tanduo, which was about 300m away from the skirmish location.
Mancha said he and his team remained in a readied position after the firing ceased. They moved into the area of conflict to assess the damage and found weapons and firearms scattered among the bodies of the 12 killed gunmen.
He explained that no police report was made after the incident, nor was there any document listing the weapons and firearms seized from the skirmish.
Mancha said he handed the seized items over to the General Operations Force Battalion 17 Chief Deputy Supt Syed Ahmad Tajuddin in the afternoon after the incident.
The trial involving the 29 men and one woman is being held in tight security at a hall at the Kepayan State Prison Department that was declared as a High Court.