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Special Features | World | National

EXCLUSIVE | MNLF 'training camp' preps 'rescue ops' for Filipinos in Sabah

File photo of an MNLF fighter. Photo by Guillermo Santi

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

JOLO, Sulu - In a camp set up by the Moro National Liberation Front in this part of southern Philippines,  recruits are being trained by veteran combat fighters "to rescue" thousands of Filipinos allegedly being abused by Malaysian security forces in Sabah.

MNLF Chman Nur Misuari gave News5 an exclusive peek into the ongoing training for members of "Operation Rescue"" as he claimed they were ready to "sustain a war for a hundred years" if necessary.

Misuari, founder of the original Moro insurgent force in the 1960s, claimed 1,000 of their men have already snuck into Sabah where a standoff began February 12 between Mlaysian forces and followers of the Sulu sultanate ouit to "reclaim" ancient territory.

Misuari stressed that their troops are not allied with the Royal Sultanate Army but have as their main mision the "rescue" of Filipinos allegedly being "abused" by Malaysia. Over 60 Filipinos have died in the standoff, and thousands others are feared caught in the crackdown.

Separate from Misuari's statements, members of the self-styled "Royal Security Force of the Sulu Sultanate" who remain holed up in Lahad Datu, Sabah, claim to have received additional reinforcements from sympathizers in the Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi areas.

Abraham Idjirani, sultanate spokesman and secretary general, claimed in a phone interview that as of Tuesday, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and his Royal Security Force are 400-strong, after dwindling to just over 160 in the face of heavy Malaysian assault.

Idjirani said more Filipinos went to Sabah on March 29 and April 5 on board boats, able to slip past the naval blockade set up by both the Philippines and Malaysia. He said "70 to 80 percent" of those who went there were reportedly armed. He said these Filipinos went there on their own due to "accumulated anger" after their loved ones in Sabah were either allegedly killed or harassed by Malaysians.

Idjirani's claims could not be independently verified, and Philippine military officials have said that naval forces are in place to block any such attempts to reinforce the sultanate's followers in Sabah.

At the MNLF camp, trainees were being instructed on the use of machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Sulu Gov. Abdulsakur Tan cautioned Misuari against any rash actions, while a military spokesman warned that the supposed rescue plans, if carried out, would go against Philippine policies on the Sabah standoff. With a report from Abigail Kwok, InterAksyon.com

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