Malaysian police yesterday said two officers were injured in shootouts with Philippine gunmen as they try to end a month-long incursion in remote Sabah State on Borneo that has left 61 people dead.
Fifty-three militants and eight police officers have been shot dead since a group of armed Philippine Islamists landed in the state last month to resurrect the long-dormant land claims of a Philippine sultan.
Malaysia insists the gunmen must surrender unconditionally, but the men have refused.
Sabah Police Chief Hamza Taib said gunmen have traded fresh fire with security forces since late Saturday, with shots hitting two officers, who were sent to a hospital in Sandakan Town for treatment.
He also said six more people have been arrested in the state under a security law and are being investigated for “committing terrorist acts,” bringing the total held under the law during the crisis to 85.
Authorities stopped three boats near the battlezone on Saturday and detained 27 people claiming to be fishermen.
Meanwhile, authorities are fine-tuning operations in a “special security area” along Sabah’s east coast, where they are stationing five army battalions, or about 3,500 men, to protect more than 1.4 million people following the incursion.
The crisis has embarrassed the Philippines and Malaysia, shining a spotlight on the latter’s porous shoreline and locals’ complaints of rampant illegal immigration and lawlessness.