Esscom rubbishes claim of 4,000 MNLF troops activated in East Malaysia

Combat police forces take positions at a village in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines

KOTA KINABALU - Malaysian security forces have dismissed claims by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that some 4,000 foreign-trained Tausug fighters embedded in Sarawak and Sabah have been activated.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) director-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek said there was no such thing and they believed that it was part of the group's propaganda to create suspicion and fear among Malaysians.

"Our early intelligence indicates that it is a bluff. There is no such thing," he said when contacted on Monday on reports in the Philippines media claiming that the so-called MNLF sleepers, known as the Bangsa Moro Army, were being activated in wake of the MNLF attack on Zamboanga City on Monday.

The reports quoting MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said the mobilisation of the fighters was to protect Tausugs, who he claimed have been the subject of a crackdown by Malaysian security forces recently.

Fontanilla said the MNLF fighters were in addition to the Sulu Sultanate Army led by Agbimuddin Kiram, the brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who led the Lahad Datu intrusion in Sabah.

Mohammad, however, said that even though Esscom did not believe the claims, they were taking the necessary action to ensure Sabah security was not breached.

He said that all wings of security forces - army, navy, air force, police and coastguards - have been alerted regarding developments in southern Philippines.