No casualties yet in new Sabah crackdown

MANILA, Philippines - No casualties have been reported so far on either side in today's (March 5) new crackdown on the group of Filipinos engaged in the standoff in Sabah.

"So far, no casualties reported from among our men," a Malaysian police official said.

Raja Muda Kiram, the leader of the Filipino gunmen, earlier indicated that he could not confirm any casualties among the Sulu sultan's followers, now labelled as "terrorists" by the Malaysian security forces.

As of posting time, the operation is ongoing and the ground assault has now begun after Hawk and F-18 fighter jets from the Royal Malaysian Air Force stormed the village of Tanduao in Lahud district, Sabah.

"There's exchange of fire between security forces and intruders," the official added.

Malaysian security forces launched fresh attacks on the more than 100 Filipino gunmen holed up in Tanduao, Lahad Datu and nearby villages in Sabah, forcing villagers to flee their homes.

Najib stressed that "the government must take action to defend the country's dignity and sovereignty as demanded by the people" and indicated that all efforts to prevent bloodshed had "failed." - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/