KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian security forces were not acting on orders to attack the Sulu gunmen in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu when fighting broke out on March 1 last year, Police VAT69 commando Supt Mancha Laga said.
“The teams A, B, C and D had closed in on the location where the armed intruders were on March 1 and while on recce (reconnaissance), my team and I encountered the gunmen,” Supt Mancha testified on the third day of the the trial of 30 people involved in the Feb 12 occupation of Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu.
He said his team had no choice but to take cover and return fire, while other teams around the village were involved in skirmishes at about the same time.
When asked by defence counsel Datuk N. Sivanathan whether the similar timing of the skirmishes meant the security forces had received an order to attack first on March 1, Supt Mancha said: “No.”
When asked why he and his team did not pursue the gunmen when they stopped firing and started to run away, Supt Mancha said it was because he was worried it would lead to an ambush.
“From my 28 years of experience as a VAT commando, I knew there was always a possibility the enemy would have planned an ambush or backup,” he said, adding that the gunmen ran towards Kampung Tanduo, 300m away from the skirmish location.
Supt Mancha said he and his team remained in a readied position after the firing stopped and moved into the area of conflict to assess the damage. They found weapons and firearms scattered with the bodies of 12 gunmen.
He added that no police report was made after the incident, nor were there any documents listing the weapons and firearms seized from the skirmish.
He said he handed the seized items over to General Operations Force Battalion 17 Chief Deputy Supt Syed Ahmad Tajuddin in the afternoon after the incident.
The trial is being held under tight security at a hall of the Kepayan State Prison Department, which has been declared a High Court.
Another Sabah intrusion warded off