Negotiations continued Friday between the Malaysian troops and about 100 Philippine men holed up in a village in the Malaysian state of Sabah for the past few days, authorities said.
The men, who arrived by boat Tuesday in Lahad Datu town in Sabah on Borneo island, identify themselves as descendants of the leaders of the Sulu Sultanate, which has a historic claim to the area, Malaysian state news agency Bernama reported citing the police.
Malaysian security forces have surrounded the men, who, according to some reports, were armed. But a Philippine official who spoke to Reuters said that they were unarmed Filipinos who had been "promised land."
The Sulu province is situated at the southern portion of the Philippines, located midway between Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. Lahad Datu, the small village in eastern Malaysia where the men are, is less than two hours by speedboat from the southern Philippines, according to a New York Times report.
Manila retains a historic, but dormant, claim to Sabah due to the Sulu Sultanate links, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said the group wanted to be recognized as the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu, and it did not want Sulu descendents to be sent back to their country, Bernama reported.
The Philippine government Friday urged the Filipino gunmen to return to their homes and families.
Johann Veronica M. Andal, third secretary and vice-consul of the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, said the Philippine military and police were monitoring the situation and were in touch with their Malaysian counterparts as joint efforts continued to resolve the incident.
She said the activities of the Filipino group were not sanctioned by the Philippine government, according to the Bernama report.
Reports citing the Malaysian police said that the men had denied alleged links to the militant groups in the southern Philippines and that the situation remained peaceful.
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