Philippines denies shooting incident at naval blockade
Malaysian minister claims 35 Filipino militants were shot dead
Military officials today disputed a claim that troops shot dead 35 Filipinos who were about to breach a blockade and enter Malaysian waters yesterday. The claim was made by Malaysian defense minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
"We have no information [on that]. It’s very peaceful here,” said Capt. Renato Yonke, commander of Naval Task Force 62, in charge of the naval blockade near the Malaysian border.
The blockade was put up by the Philippine Navy in February after members of the so-called Royal Sultanate Army renewed their claim over the state of Sabah. Subsequent fighting with Malaysian forces led to dozens of lives lost on both sides.
Military officials say the blockade was established to prevent reinforcements from Sulu going to Sabah and to render assistance to civilians affected by the conflict.
Malaysia’s Star Online reported today that the Philippines Navy and Coast Guard shot dead 35 Filipinos before they could enter Malaysian waters.
It was not clear from the Malaysian report that the men, described as "Sulu militants," were followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
The report quoted Hamid as saying militants were out to "cause problems" during Malaysia's general elections on May 5.
“We don’t know what their intention is,” said Yonke of the report. “Evacuees are coming in, but to say [people from Sulu] going out [to Sabah], and we opened fire, we have no information on that," he said.
“Our blockade remains in place and what we’re documenting are evacuees coming from the other side. We have not encountered any armed group entering Malaysian waters,” the official said.
Navy spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said he conducted a check in the area and found no evidence to support the Malaysian report. "There is no such report from our men," he said.
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