Several people have been killed where followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III are holed up in Sabah as the Malaysian authorities began the assault in the area on Friday.
A radio report, quoting some relatives of Kiram, including his brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, said there were several fatalities already in the firefight between the Sultan's followers and Malaysian police and military personnel.
The report, however, did not elaborate whether those killed were on the side of Kiram's group or the Malaysian authorities.
It also added that prior to the clash, there were negotiations between Kiram's group and Malaysian authorities for the Sultan's followers to peacefully leave the Malaysian-controlled island of Lahad Datu in Sabah.
Abraham Idjirani, secretary general and spokesman to Sultan Jamalul Kiram, confirmed that Agbimuddin's group were fired at by Malaysian security forces before holding a briefing in Manila.
Idjirani said the Sultanate members led by Agbimuddin Kiram called them up and informed the rising tension at about 6 a.m.
“This morning is a history, the Malaysian security forces started the first shot,” Idjirani said.
Idjirani, however, said that Agbimuddin could not ascertain if the first shot was aimed at their people.
Idjirani said the Raja Muda (crown prince) also informed them earlier that the Malaysian authorities were already approaching the area.
“However, there was bit of respite and it was good that the Malaysian police have withdrawn later, according to Raja Muda,” Idjirani said.
He said the Malaysian forces came as close as 300 meters from where the more than 200 followers of the sultanate were holed up.
The sultanate official also appealed to the Malaysian government to reconsider its action stressing their people holed up in Lahad Datu have no intentions of creating trouble.
“However, if the Malaysian authorities will push for its action then the Sultanate followers there have no recourse but to defend themselves to their last breath,” Idjirani said.