LAHAD DATU - Gunmen have killed five policemen in Malaysia's Sabah state where members of an armed faction from the Philippines have been facing off with security forces as they stake an ancient claim to the remote corner of Borneo island.
Police on Friday tried to end the standoff with scores of followers of the sultan of Sulu, a south Philippine region, who occupied a Sabah village in February to press their claim. Two policemen and 12 followers of the sultan were killed.
The killing of the five policemen late on Saturday, in an ambush on police hunting followers of the sultan, will reinforce fears that insecurity is spreading in a region rich in resources that has been of increasing interest to investors.
Malaysia's inspector general of police, Ismail Omar, tried to ease any worries on Sunday, saying the situation was under control.
"I don't want speculation that Sabah is in crisis," Ismail told a news conference in the town of Lahad Datu. "We have our security forces at three places to respond."