KOTA KINABALU: Ongoing clashes between Philippine troops and Moro rebels in the southern Jolo island will not affect the repatriation of the country’s nationals who are in Sabah illegally.
Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said the Philippines military operations against Moro National Liberation Front gunmen loyal to jailed former leader Nur Misuari was the country’s “internal affair.”
“As far as we are concerned, Filipinos in Sabah who have to leave will have to do so. There are no two ways about it,” said Musa after attending the Chinese New Year open house of Karambunai Resorts Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Robin Loh here yesterday.
Musa, the state Security Council chairman, said Malaysian security forces personnel operating along the sea borders between Sabah and southern Philippines had not detected any attempts by those fleeing Jolo island to hide in Malaysian waters.
“Our security forces are aware of the situation there and they are always on the alert,” he said.
About 100 soldiers and Moro rebels have been killed or wounded in the fighting triggered off by the alleged shooting of a family including a pregnant woman and her son when marines entered MNLF controlled areas last Sunday in pursuit of Abu Sayyaf gunmen.
Conflicting reports have emerged as to the number of villagers caught in the crossfire who have moved to Jolo town and surrounding islands including Tawi Tawi and others close to the east coast of Sabah.
Some 3,000 to 5,000 families have been displaced last week's running battles between Philippine marines and the MNLF rebels at five municipalities on Jolo island.
Philippine Armed Forces Task Force Comet Brig General Agustin Dema-ala said in Jolo on Saturday that his soldiers were now closing in on the MNLF rebels who escaped to the mountains near the Panamao town in Sulu.
The rebels, led by MNLF commander Habier Malik, were forced to hide in the mountainous area of Panamao town after military troops overran their camp near Siit village, Brig Gen Dema-ala added.
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