TANJUNG LABIAN (Lahad Datu): A simmering discontent is believed to be building up within the ranks of the Sulu armed group led by Azzimudie Kiram as they run out of food supplies.
The word filtering out from the seaside village of Tanduo at Felda Sahabat 17 where the stand-off entered its third week was that several Sulu sub-commanders had stopped some of their hungry followers from leaving and gunshots were heard.
However, Malaysian security forces have declined to verify the firing of shots, merely confirming that the food supplies in the village were running out following the tight cordon around Tanduo.
Azzimudie has also reportedly contacted the family of Sultan Kiram in Manila last Saturday, stating that they were living off tapioca and vegetables from the farms of the 15 families who fled since the group landed on Feb 9.
The Kiram family had stated that they have asked Azzimudie to hold out at the village and keep the muzzles of their rifles pointed to the ground until the next move.
Asked about the latest situation following Sunday's deadline for the Sulu group to give up and return to southern Philippines, Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said yesterday: “We want to settle this without bloodshed.”
“If force is to be used, we want it to be at minimal level,” he said.
On whether any of the Sulu group members had slipped out of Tanduo, Hamza said none had left and no one had entered the village.
“We believe there are not more than five locals who are with the group; likely to be relatives or loyalists (of Kiram),” he added.
Asked how long it would take for security forces to move in as the stand-off entered the third week, Hamza said: “Very soon.”
Hamza, who also confirmed that the group had run out of food supplies, said Azzimudie had made no new demands but asked to meet someone.
Declining to say who the person was, Hamza said police had located the individual but he was not available to meet Azzimudie.
It is believed the person was a close relative of Azzimudie who had initially demanded for the recognition of his so-called Sulu Sultanate royal armed forces and claimed that they had a right to occupy Tanduo as Sabah was their ancestral home.
As time runs out for the Sulu group, Manila has been trying to convince the family of Sultan Kiram to persuade Azzimudie and his group to leave Sabah.
The Malaysian side extended its Friday deadline to Sunday following a request from the Philippines government which wanted till Tuesday.