KOTA KINABALU: Sulu gunmen waved a piece of white paper at a VAT 69 commando team they encountered around Kg Tanduo before opening fire on them, said fourth prosecution witness Kpl Azman Ampong.
Speaking at the trial of the captured Sulu gunmen at the High Court here, Kpl Azman testified that the intruders told them to leave the area before they started firing at his team.
As a result, he and a teammate suffered gunshot wounds.
Kpl Azman said he first saw one of the gunmen alert his men with a wave of his hand, then someone gave him a stick with the paper attached to it.
Kpl Azman said the man, whom he believed was the leader, then walked towards the commando unit slowly with two others following closely behind.
“When he was about 10m away, the leader started mumbling or chanting, before speaking in Tausug (Bahasa Sulu) Ayau kamu rindi, muit kamu (don’t be here, go back),” said Kpl Azman from Pulau Bumbum in Semporna.
Kpl Azman said he understood what was said but pretended he didn’t and stood his ground.
“When the leader saw that we did not heed his order, he shouted Allahuakbar (God is great) twice and shots were immediately fired at us continuosly,” he said, adding that it was about 10am when the shooting started.
Kpl Azman said he and Kpl Tarmizi took cover behind some palm trees and only shot back when they were hit twice.
Kpl Azman was shot in his left thigh and waist.
Kpl Azman then shouted to Kpl Tarmizi to pull back as the latter was shot in the arm and calf while he covered his teammate.
Kpl Azman told Justice Stephen Chung that his team had gone into Sector C of the area, and were moving in pairs in a “standard line” at about 6am on March 1 last year, when the gunmen spotted them.
“Patrol leader Insp Zulkifli, who was about 10m behind us, immediately instructed us to freeze and to be in the ready,” said Kpl Azman.
“We did not start the shooting because we were instructed to exercise maximum restraint.”
He explained that a patrol consisted of six personnel, headed by a sergeant or sergeant major.
Two patrols, he added, would be under one troop commander with the ranking of Inspector.
Another VAT 69 soldier L/Kpl Qaiyum from team D was also wounded in the incident.
The trial of the 29 men and a woman, charged with waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and which carries the death penalty or life imprisonment, was held at a hall that had been turned into a High Court at the state Prison Department at Kepayan here.
All 30 are also charged with being members of a terrorist group, which is punishable by life in prison and a fine upon conviction