Kuala Lumpur - A follower of a Philippine sultan was killed Sunday in a clash with Malaysian troops in the eastern state of Sabah, shattering a five-day lull in the fighting on the tip of Borneo, a senior army official said.
The Filipino gunman was killed by troops in the village of Tanjung Batu, in Lahad Datu, 1,600 kilometres east of Kuala Lumpur, according to army field commander Lieutenant General Zulkiple Kassim.
Zulkiple said troops were searching for three other gunmen spotted during the clash. There were no casualties on the government side, he said.
The latest clash came amid claims by the police and military that the leader of the group, Agbimuddin Kiram, had fled to the southernP hilippines several days ago.
Agbimuddin, younger brother of Philippine Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, and more than 200 followers set up camp in the village of Tanduo in Lahad Datu on February 12 to assert their historical claim to Sabah.
The sultanate leased Sabah in 1878 to the British North Borneo Co, which then passed it to Malaysia after Malaysia's independence. Kuala Lumpur currently pays the sultan 5,300 ringgit (1,680 dollars) peryear in rent.
At least 57 Filipino gunmen have been killed since the fighting began on March 1, while Malaysian troops suffered 10 fatalities, officials said. One civilian was also reported killed.//DPA