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Sultan’s men set up guerrilla base

MANILA, Philippines - After eluding Malaysian authorities for several weeks, the followers of the sultanate of Sulu have set up a guerrilla base in the hinterlands of Sabah, the sultanate’s spokesman said yesterday.

Abraham Idjirani told reporters that the Malaysian military and police knew about the base but could not pinpoint the exact location because the jungle in the area is vast.

Idjirani said the new stronghold is in a strategic location with enough sources of food and water, and with adequate shelter for nearly 500 men.

 The base was reported to Idjirani during a conversation the other day with Agbimuddin Kiram, the sultanate-appointed “administrator” of Sabah.

 A source from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)said the base was their former camp where a cache of high-powered weapons was kept at the height of the Mindanao uprising in the early ‘70s.

The source said the base was established by MNLF fighters who joined the group in Lahad Datu to press their proprietary claim over Sabah.

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Idjirani clarified the sultan’s fighters would continue to adopt defensive position and would not initiate any attack on the Malaysian forces.

 The Malaysian military and police have stopped the operation against the armed group. The last encounter took place last April 9.

 Aside from the 400 new arrivals from Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, Tausugs based in Lahad Datu and Semporna have also joined the sultanate army at the stronghold.

Idjirani said 80 percent of the army is now fully armed and ready to repeal any attack on the base by Malaysian authorities.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) continues to provide transport for Filipinos evacuating Sabah.

Last Saturday, the BRP Nueva Vizcaya evacuated 79 Filipinos to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi; 17 others, including 12 children and five adults were brought to Jolo, and 62 to Zamboanga City. – With Rainier Allan Ronda

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