KOTA KINABALU – Several explosives, an M16 rifle with live bullets and several empty magazines were found at a farm in Kampung Tanjung Batu, Lahad Datu on Sunday.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said police did not rule out that the items were likely to be weapons left behind by Sulu militants during the 2013 intrusion.
“Based on initial investigations, we believe that the weapons had been left behind by the militants during the ‘Op Daulat’ as they were found within the operation area,” he said after launching the Sabah chapter of the Malaysian Association of Retired Senior Police Officers (Respa) here Tuesday.
Also present were Respa deputy president Datuk Mohd Nawawi Ismail and Sabah Respa chairman Datuk Sulaiman Junaidi.
Abdul Rashid said a 50-year-old man who discovered the items had also been detained to facilitate the investigations.
On Feb 11, 2013, the nation was rocked by news that broke late into the night about the eastern shores of Sabah being invaded by a group of armed men.
The group, comprising over a hundred people, was quickly identified to be followers of self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III. They were led by Jamalul’s brother Agbimuddin Kiram.
Hailing from Pulau Simunul of Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines, the group first entered Malaysian waters by boat on Feb 9 and gathered in stages at Felda Sahabat 17 in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, as a means of ‘reclaiming’ part of Borneo as their ancestral land.
The first shootout between Malaysian security forces and the small group of Filipino rebels broke out on March 1 when the latter tried to break a police blockade in Kampung Tanduo.
That encounter left two police commandos dead, while then Sabah police commissioner, Datuk Hamza Taib, confirmed that 12 of Kiram’s followers were killed.
In the early hours of March 3, a group of Filipino gunmen, believed to be less than 10, ambushed the police in a village in Semporna, Sabah.
The media reported that six Malaysian police officers and seven assailants were killed. It was also reported that four of the policemen had their bodies mutilated, with one beheaded.
On March 5, three F-18 and five Hawk aircraft filled the Kampung Tanduo skies in an airstrike against the Filipino rebels at dawn in an effort to flush them out.
Thirteen of the Sulu gunmen were killed in the process. The deaths were confirmed by then Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Codenamed Ops Daulat, the ‘mopping up’ stage also saw ground troops going door-to-door to sniff out the intruders. However, none were caught.
Kampung Tanduo was finally secured by Malaysian forces on March 11, with the bodies of 22 Sulu gunmen recovered. Despite the deaths, the Kiram family insisted that its army stay put in Sabah and not surrender.
The Lahad Datu standoff reportedly saw a total of 68 deaths – 56 from the Sulu sultanate, nine from the Malaysian authorities and six civilians.