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Conflict

Five Malaysian police killed in disputed Borneo region

Malaysian police have said five officers and two attackers died in a clash on Borneo. Checkpoints have gone up seeking followers of a Filipino sultan who claim the territory, the prime suspects in the attack.

Malaysian police chief Ismail Omar said that five police officers were killed on Saturday night, in the town of Semporna in the northern region of Borneo - a divided island - controlled by Malaysia.

Semporna is roughly 155 kilometers (97 miles) away, if traveling by land, from the disputed town of Lahad Datu, where police and followers of a sultan from the Philippines have been stuck in a three-week standoff. Investigators had not yet determined whether they can link the attack to Filipino followers of the Sultan of Sulu, occupying Lahad Datu since February 12 to press a historical land claim, Omar said. However, police killed 12 members of the group in a raid on Friday.
 

Omar also said police were seeking roughly 10 armed men spotted wearing military garb in Kunak province - whose capital Kuna is on the road between Semporna and Lahad Datu.

Before the attacks on Saturday, Police had dropped leaflets from the air onto the Lahad Datu encampment urging the sultan's followers to disperse, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that there would be no compromising with the group: "Either they surrender or face the consequences if they refuse."

About 200 Filipinos arrived on the island nearly three weeks ago to try to back the land of a sultanate leased in 1878 to the British North Borneo Company, which passed it to Malaysia in 1963. Twelve members were killed Friday, along with two police commandos and one local resident in a clash with Malaysian security forces. On Saturday, Philippines President Benigno Aquino on Saturday called on the group to lay down its arms without any conditions.

Princess Jaycel Kiram, the sultan's daughter, said on Saturday that her family had received reports that relatives of those killed in Friday's clash were preparing to go to Sabah to provide reinforcement.

"We are calling on everyone to calm down, we are trying our best to resolve this peacefully," she said. "This concerns honor above life. We will not retreat just like that, because we're fighting for something and our struggle is our right and the truth."

mkg/msh (AP, AFP, dpa)