At least six policemen were killed in an ambush in Malaysia’s Sabah state, police said Sunday, as authorities tried to ease tensions amid continued standoff with Sulu gunmen.
Malaysia’s Police Inspector General Ismail Omar said six bodies of policemen were retrieved after a throughout search in the village where they were ambushed during an operations Saturday evening in the coast area of Semporna.
Bodies of six gunmen were also found, he said.
Earlier on Sunday, a man with a M-16 rifle was beaten to death by local villagers in Semporna. Police later confirmed he was a Sulu gunmen.
Tensions are rising as police confirmed that they were tracking a group of gunmen that believed to have entered Kunak area between Semporna and Lahad Datu where some 180 members of Royal Army of the Sulu Sultanate have holed up in the village of Tanduo for three weeks.
Ismail said that situations in all three areas are under control, while Army Chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin announced another two army battalion would be deployed.
Prime Minister Najib Razak denied that the government was withholding any information, urging residents not to believe in rumors.
However, police refused to comment on reports by Philippine media that several Malaysians were held hostage after the gunfight on Saturday night.
The Malaysian authorities have been in a standoff for three weeks with the group of about 180 Filipinos, including some heavily armed men. A gunfight broke out between the security forces and the Sulu group on Friday, killing two special force commandos and 12 gunmen.