A Philippine policeman stands guard near the Malaysian embassy in Manila after Malaysian authorities ended the Sabah stand-off with Filipino gunmen. (AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE)
More than 10 unconfirmed dead from Royal Sulu Army and confirmed 3 , including two police officers, were killed on Friday as Malaysian security forces reported in the clash between Malaysian security forces and the Royal Security group of the Sulu Sultanate crowned prince Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram this afternoon after the exchange of gunfire in Tanduo village.
Although officially unconfirmed, the reported casualty tally remains at more than ten Sulu gunmen dead and four injured including its leader Rajah Mudah Azzimudie Kiram with two commandos of the General Operations Force dead and four injured.
Three of the GOF injured men have been airlifted to Lahad Datu hospital and another to the Duchess of Kent hospital in Sandakan.
Conflicting reports emerged from the ground that the GOF forces were holding their fire and their positions while there has been no word from Azzumudie who last talked with a radio station in Manila at about 11am confirming the fire fight and the group's casualties.
It is believed that apart from machine gunfire, mortars were used during the encounter though details of how the clash began remains unclear.
However, it appears that the Malaysian security forces were fired upon first by the Sulu gunmen.
On standby are also the Army units who were seen at various strategic locations along the road to Sahabat Felda 17 where the Sulu group have been holed up.
Journalists have been told to wait at a neighboring Sahabat 16 resort for a police press conference scheduled for 5pm.
Dozens of followers of the little-known sultan of Sulu had been facing off with Malaysian police for the past two weeks, after they sailed from their homes in the southern Philippines to stake a territorial claim in North Borneo.
The 74-year-old Sultan Jamalul Kiram III says he is the head of the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of Borneo including the site of the stand-off, as well as southern Philippine islands.
The owner of the house where the leader of the gunmen stayed during the 17-day stand-off was also killed but the nationality was not known, Philippine foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters, citing a report by Malaysia's ambassador.
A third Malaysian police officer was wounded after the gunmen opened fire on their van, he said.
"The Malaysian ambassador said that the rest of the Kiram group in Lahad Datu escaped and ran toward the sea," he said, adding that 10 members of the group were arrested.
Malaysia's state news agency Bernama reported that two police commandos had been killed in a mortar shell explosion as they patrolled around the village where the gunmen were holed up.
It was unclear if they were the two police officers mentioned by Hernandez.
An official at the main hospital in the town of Lahad Datu near the site of the stand-off told AFP two police officers had been brought in with gunshot wounds but were in stable condition.
Hernandez said he could not confirm allegations by a Manila spokesman for the gunmen that Malaysian security forces had shot dead 10 members of the group and wounded four others.
Hernandez said Manila had formally demanded a full account of the security operation that ended the stand-off.
Kiram's spokesman Abraham Idjirani claimed Malaysian snipers had killed 10 of the sultan's men and wounded four other members of the group.
"I talked to (the group's leader) by telephone just now and asked him how many of his men were martyred. He told me 10. I enquired about the wounded and he said four," Idjirani told a news conference at Kiram's Manila home.
Idjirani insisted Kiram's men would continue to fight and would not leave Sabah.
The Islamic Sultanate of Sulu leased northern Borneo to Europeans in the 1870s.
While the sultanate's authority gradually faded as Western colonial powers exerted their influence over the region, it continued to receive lease payments for Sabah.
The former British colony became part of the federation of Malaysia when it was formed in 1963.
Kiram and the other heirs of the sultan still receive nominal annual compensation from Malaysia in the equivalent of about $1,700.
Idjirani suggested last week that the men would stand down if the compensation were substantially raised.