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Filipino refugees still fleeing Sabah

Skirmishes as Malaysian forces mop up

Filipino refugees still fleeing Sabah
Children of some of the Sultan of Sabah's followers (photo by Ponce Luna) reporter, Manila

March 18, 2013

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More Filipinos continued to pour into Mindanao from Sabah over the weekend as skirmishes continued between followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and Malaysian security forces. 

A Navy ship with 30 Filipino evacuees arrived in the province of Tawi-Tawi last night from Tanagak island. 

Local officials said the evacuees are part of a group of 272 who left Sandakan in Sabah over the weekend, following rumors that Malaysian authorities would launch a crackdown on Filipinos.

The social welfare department earlier reported that 2,818 evacuees from Sabah have been already "processed" and returned to their provinces. 

In Manila, a security official on Monday said there are no indications that Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of the Sulu Sultan who led the fighting in Sabah, has returned to the country.

"We have no indicators that he is already here. The only people saying that [he has returned] are the Malaysians," said the official who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak on the issue.

He said about 100 followers of the Sulu Sultan, or possibly more, are still in Sabah although they are splintered into groups, adding that fighting in Sabah is expected to drag on.

A Catholic missionary nun visited the Sulu Sultan on Monday to appeal to "stop the fighting and begin the dialogue."

"We take care of internally displaced people especially in Mindanao so we are concerned now. It’s our people who were affected and we are hoping that this will settle soon," said Sister Arnold Maria. 

"We are also asking for humanitarian protection for our people because most of those affected are civilians,” she said.

The ongoing conflict in Sabah made international headlines on March 1 when armed followers of Kiram and Malaysian security forces clashed.

Malaysia has announced that it has detained more than 330 Filipinos in Sabah suspected of aiding or supporting the Sultanate of Sulu. At least 61 followers of the Sulu Sultan were also reported killed. 

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