Malaysia has launched airstrikes and mortar attacks against nearly 200 Filipinos occupying a coastal village in Borneo in a push to end a bizarre three-week siege that has turned into a security nightmare for both Malaysia and the Philippines. The assault follows firefights this past week that killed eight Malaysian police officers and 19 Filipino gunmen, some of whom were members of a Muslim clan that shocked Malaysia by slipping by boat past naval patrols last month and storming an obscure village in eastern Borneo.
Malaysian officials say ground forces have encountered resistance from gunmen firing at them. The Filipino clansmen, armed with rifles and grenade launchers, had refused to leave the area, staking a long-dormant claim to Malaysia's entire state of Sabah, which they insisted was their ancestral birthright. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak defended the offensive, saying the country had made every effort to resolve the siege peacefully. "For our sovereignty and stability, we will not allow even an inch of Malaysian territory to be threatened or taken by anyone," he said.