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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sabah faces threat of militant women, kids from Philippines?

KOTA KINABALU - Security forces in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (EssZone) are not discounting a possible new threat from southern Philippine women and children.

They believe militants from the conflict zone in the Philippine island of Mindanao are now trying to get women and children to enter Sabah by sea.

This comes in the wake of reports of a new twist to the conflict in Marawi City between Islamic State-affiliated terrorists and the Philippine army.

The security forces encountered armed resistance from women and children as troops made a final push to end the fighting that began in May.

“We are not sparing women and kids during our checks at security points in the EssZone,” Eastern Sabah Security Command (EssCom) commander Hazani Ghazali told FMT.

“We know that the IS militants are using all that they have, including women and children.
“The terror group even uses them as suicide bombers. So we’re not ruling out such a threat from women and children as well.

“From the start, we’ve been vigilant towards everyone, not just men,” he said.

Hazani said it was standard operating procedure to have female security personnel to check on the women.

“We are aware that there are no women on the government’s most wanted list, but that does not mean we are taking a relaxed approach in our security screenings.

“Even with children entering our borders, we are being careful,” he said.

Lieutenant-General Carlito Galvez, who heads the Philippine military in western Mindanao, recently said the rebels had resorted to enlisting women and children for battle.

“The number of fighters is diminishing. A small number of women and children, most likely family members of the rebels, are now engaged in combat,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“Our troops in the field are seeing women and children shooting at them, so that’s why it seems as if they are not running out of fighters.”

Security in the east coast of Sabah has been beefed up due to its proximity to conflict areas in southern Philippines.

On Feb 9, 2013, a group of Filipino militants, following Agbimuddin Kiram, who claimed himself as “crown prince of the Sulu Sultanate”, entered by boat in stages and infiltrated into Felda Sahabat 17, Kampong Tanduo, Lahad Datu.

The area turned into a battlefield between the country’s security forces and the Sulu invaders, who claimed they wanted to regain power over Sabah on behalf of the “Sulu royalty”.

The incident resulted in the death of 63 militants and 10 members of the Malaysian security forces.

On May 16 this year, Sabah police said they were investigating a report of five armed Philippine men in camouflage attire sighted at a plantation in Lahad Datu. They were said to be among 37 people who had landed in the state to “save” the people.

By Zam Yusa

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