In another twist to the ongoing tussle between Filipino insurgents and Malaysian security forces in Sabah, a Philippine news portal claimed that Malaysia had sent a hit squad to Manila to assassinate the leader of the Sulu clan.
But authorities were quick to rubbish the claim, Malaysian liberal news portal Malaysian Insider reported.
On Tuesday, Sulu sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani told Philippine news portal Interaksyon that a Malaysian colonel he named as Sunny Ng had arrived in the Philippines with a four-man "hit squad" to eliminate so-called sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his supporters.
The colonel also allegedly enlisted the services of three people from the New People's Army from Quezon province in the Philippines.
A Filipino lawyer, who had formerly acted for Mr Jamalul Kiram's adviser Pastor "Boy" Saycon, had leaked the purported assassination plot to the sultanate, Mr Idjirani was reported as saying.
He said the unnamed lawyer was approached by a Malaysian businessman at the colonel's request, to seek out the sultan's address.
"In the light of this development, we would like to ask the government: Have we surrendered our sovereign control (of our country) that we allow a Malaysian hit squad... to perform their terroristic acts in the Philippines?" Mr Idjirani was quoted as saying.
The news portal also reported Mr Jamalul Kiram as saying that he was not afraid of the "hit squad".
"Why would I fear them? I have not seen them. Maybe if I see them, I will just run," Mr Jamalul Kiram joked.
He called on the Philippine authorities to investigate the claimed assassination plot.
But a Philippine presidential spokesman refuted the claim. Mr Edwin Lacierda slammed the Kirams for allegedly fabricating the assassination plot.
"(This is) another tall tale coming from the Kiram family," he was quoted as saying by the Manila Standard.
Philippine National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia said the checks by local intelligence units showed that no such "hit squad" was in the Philippines in search of the "royal family".
Garcia added that checks by intelligence agents on the names of the "assassins" allegedly billeted at the Maxim's Hotel at Resorts World in Pasay City had returned with "negative results".
"The Philippine government does not tolerate assassins whether local or foreign, and it will proceed against any wrongdoers if and when the evidence warrants," Garcia said in a text message, according to the Manila Standard.
The paper also cited a source from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as saying that the agency has receive no report to support the sultanate's claim of an assassination plot by Malaysia.
During an interview on TV in the Philippines, Manila Standard said Philippine national police spokesman Chief Supt Generoso Cerbo Jr had also said that they have yet to verify any such threat against the Kiram clan, who currently reside in Taguig City, Manila.
"Our policemen are regularly monitoring Kiram's home," Cerbo reportedly told national television.
On Tuesday, Idjirani was reported by Philippine news portal Interaksyon
Mr Jamalul Kiram's younger brother, Mr Agbimuddin Kiram, had last month led about 200 followers into Lahad Datu on Sabah's east coast to reclaim the north Borneo state they insist belonged to their clan and was only leased to the British in the late 1800s.
Malaysia had attempted to negotiate a peaceful end to the armed intrusion for three weeks from Feb 9, but resorted to combat after the Sulu militants refused to leave.
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