- Title: PHILIPPINES: Manila urges armed Filipino group in Sabah to leave
- Date: 18th February 2013
- Summary: MANILA, PHILIPPINES (FEBRUARY 18, 2013) (REUTERS- ACCESS ALL) VARIOUS OF VEHICLES ON STREET
- Embargoed: 5th March 2013 12:00
- Location: Philippines
- Country: Philippines
- Topics: Crime,Politics
- Reuters ID: LVACEEPV207ZGU3O6408T2VXUO8Q
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Philippines Foreign Affairs Department urges a group of more than 100 Filipino armed men who entered the Malaysian state of Sabah last week to leave peacefully.
The Philippines Foreign Affairs Department on Monday (February 18) urged about 100 Filipino armed men who entered the Malaysian state of Sabah to leave peacefully to avoid bloodshed.
The group of men, believed to be followers of the Sultan of Sulu, landed by boat at Lahad Datu town early last week to press a historical claim to the Malaysian state, which led to a standoff with Malaysian authorities.
Philippines Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez told reporters at a news conference that negotiations between Malaysian authorities and the armed Filipinos have been ongoing.
"As of this time we are still endeavouring to have the group leave Lahad Datu peacefully, and that is very important to us, that this issue is settled in a peaceful manner," he said.
Sulu is an archipelago in the southern Philippines. Today it is a province but the old sultanate covered a wider area that included the northern tip of Borneo, which is now the Malaysian state of Sabah.
In an arrangement that stretches back to British colonial times, Malaysia pays a token amount to the sultanate each year for the "rental" of Sabah.
The armed group were demanding recognition from Malaysia as the rightful owners of Sabah and renegotiation of the original terms of the lease with a British trading company.
Malaysian officials said over the weekend that the group's demands would not be met and that the men would be deported soon, without specifying how.
"There's a group there that about, more or less 200, and some of them are armed, or their escorts are armed, and we are calling them to leave Lahad Datu as soon as possible, so that the issue will not escalate further," Hernandez said.
While no violence has been reported since the standoff began last week, Hernandez hoped the standoff could be settled quickly and peacefully.
"There are no reports of any violence and there are no reports of bloodshed. What is happening now is they are talking to the group, and also our officials - our security and defence officials - are also talking with their counterparts in Malaysia," he said.
The standoff has threatened to cause diplomatic tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbours whose ties have been periodically frayed by security and migration problems caused by a porous sea border.
Sabah has a history of militant attacks in more remote parts of the state
In 2000, a group of militants from the southern Philippines kidnapped 21 tourists from a diving resort on Sipadan island.
In 1985, 11 people were killed when gunmen, believed to be from the southern Philippines, entered Lahad Datu, shooting at random before robbing a bank.
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