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According to Malaysian immigration official, former PM Najib Razak has been banned from leaving the country.

The ban comes after Najib Razak said that he and his wife were planning to go on an overseas holiday on May 12.

Earlier this week, Najib Razak’s long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition suffered a shock electoral defeat.

Najib Razak has been accused of diverting $700 million from a state investment fund in 2015, but has since been cleared by the authorities.

However, Malaysia’s new PM Mahathir Mohamad, who at 92 became the world’s oldest elected leader when he was sworn in on May 10, has said that Najib Razak could face a fresh investigation if sufficient evidence supports it.

Mahathir Mohamad has said that investigations will take place into alleged corruption in Malaysia, including the case involving the state investment fund.

He stood down as prime minister 15 years ago, but came out of retirement and defected to the opposition to take on and beat former protégé Najib Razak.

Photo AP

Malaysia PM Najib Razak Cleared of Corruption

Malaysia Protests: Bersih Activists Call for PM Najib Razak to Resign over Financial Scandal

Mahathir Mohamad appears to be making good on a promise, made during his election, to release imprisoned former political leader Anwar Ibrahim.

On May 12, Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter, Nurul Izzah, confirmed reports that her father will “receive a full royal pardon” and is due to be released on May 15.

Anwar Ibrahim was once Mahathir Mohamad’s deputy, but was jailed on widely-criticized charges of sodomy and corruption amid bitter tensions between the two men.

Najib Razak tweeted that he had been informed by the immigration authorities that he and his family would not be allowed to travel abroad.

The former prime minister gave no reasons for the authorities’ decision, but said he would abide by it.

Najib Razak, 64, has also announced he is quitting as chairman of the Barisan Nasional coalition and as president of his United Malay National Organization party.

He had said earlier that he and his wife Rosmah Mansor would go on a holiday on May 12.

It is believed they intended to fly to Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Najib Razak had faced accusations of corruption and mismanagement over the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The scandal has gripped the country for years.

1MDB, set up by Najib Razak in 2009, was meant to turn Kuala Lumpur into a financial hub and boost the economy through strategic investments.

However, the fund started to attract negative attention in early 2015 after it missed payments for some of the $11 billion it owed to banks and bondholders.

Then the Wall Street Journal reported it had seen a paper trail that allegedly traced close to $700 million from the fund to Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts.

Najib Razak has consistently denied taking money from 1MDB or any public funds.

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Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, the two women charged with killing Kim Jong-nam, are revisiting the crime scene in Malaysia.

They were at Kuala Lumpur airport on October 24.

Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong are accused of rubbing the highly toxic VX nerve agent on the face of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader as he waited for a flight.

The two women have pleaded not guilty to murder, saying it was a TV prank and they were tricked by North Korean agents.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the February 13 killing, but four men – believed to be four North Koreans who fled Malaysia on the day of murder – have also been charged in the case.

Image source Getty Images

Kim Jong-nam Murder: Women Suspects Plead Not Guilty in Malaysia Trial

Kim Jong-nam Assassination: Interpol Issues Red Notice for 4 North Koreans

Kim Jong-nam Assasination: North Korean Suspect Ri Jong-chol Says He Is Victim of Conspiracy

Kuala Lumpur International Airport was packed with journalists on October 24 as the women arrived, escorted by dozens of security officers.

Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong wore bullet proof vests, and were seen in wheelchairs at one point.

According to local media, they were accompanied by their lawyers and the judge presiding over the trial.

Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong are expected to visit the check in hall where Kim Jong-nam appeared to have been attacked, and the medical center where he sought assistance.

If found guilty, Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong face the death penalty. Their defense lawyers are likely to argue that the real culprits are the North Korean agents, who left Malaysia.

Kim Jong-nam, who was in his mid-40s, was the estranged older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

At the time of his death, Kim Jong-nam was believed to have been living in self-imposed exile in Macau and was thought to have had some links to China.

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Kim Jong-nam’s body has arrived in North Korea, Chinese officials have confirmed.

Pyongyang had requested the body of Kin Jong-un’s half-brother, but has not confirmed its identity.

The body was released as part of a deal under which nine Malaysians previously prevented from leaving North Korea have now arrived home.

Malaysia and North Korea had been locked in a diplomatic row in the wake of Kim Jong-nam’s murder in Kuala Lumpur last month.

Both countries had banned each other’s citizens from leaving.

“The body of the DPRK citizen who died in Malaysia and relevant DPRK citizens have returned to the DPRK today via Beijing,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea is widely suspected of having orchestrated the killing of Kim Jong-nam with VX nerve agent in Kuala Lumpur’s airport.

Three North Koreans who had been wanted for questioning have now been allowed to leave Malaysia, Malaysia’s chief of police said.

Image source Getty Images

“We have obtained whatever we wanted from them” and are “satisfied” with the statements, Khalid Abu Bakar said.

In the wake of Kim Jong-nam’s killing on February 13, Pyongyang reacted angrily when Malaysia refused to hand over the body immediately, without an autopsy.

Malaysian authorities said they had the right to conduct an autopsy as he had been killed on Malaysian soil, and that they would only release the body to Kim Jong-nam’s family.

On March 30, Malysian PM Najib Razak said a formal request had been received from the family, but gave no further details.

A day later, national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said “legally speaking, Kim Jong-un is the next-of-kin” but declined to say who the request had come from.

King Jong-nam’s own family previously lived in Macau but they are now thought to be in hiding.

His son Kim Han-sol appeared in a video earlier this month confirming he was with his mother and sister at an unspecified location.

Although Kim Jong-nam was the eldest son of the former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un was passed over for the leadership and was living outside North Korea at the time of his father’s death.

Malaysia’s refusal to hand over Kim Jong-nam’s body prompted a war of words. North Korea’s ambassador Kang Chol accused Malaysia of colluding with “hostile forces”, allegations which Kuala Lumpur dubbed as “delusions, lies and half-truths”.

Kang Chol was expelled and the Malaysian ambassador to North Korea was also recalled.

North Korea then said it would ban all Malaysians in the country from leaving until the “situation was resolved”, which Malaysia’s PM Najib Razak called an “abhorrent act” that effectively held his citizens hostage.

Kuala Lumpur enacted a tit-for-tat exit ban on North Koreans.

Under the deal, the nine Malaysian nationals returned to Kuala Lumpur on March 31, where they were met by relatives.

They include Malaysia’s counselor to North Korea, Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain, embassy staff, and their families.

The exact circumstances of how the deal was struck remain unclear. PM Najib Razak described the negotiations as “challenging”.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Aman hailed the exchange as a success of diplomacy and “level-headedness”.

Reuters reported that TV footage showed two North Koreans on the flight to Beijing with the body: Hyon Kwang-song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Kim Uk-il, a North Korean state airline employee.

The third was named Ri Ji-u, who had been holed up with them in the North Korean Embassy, Reuters quoted the chief of police as saying.

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Malaysia has expelled North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol after he criticized the country’s investigation into the killing of Kim Jong-nam.

Ambassador Kang Chol must leave within 48 hours, Malaysia’s foreign ministry says.

Malaysia demanded an apology after the ambassador said North Korea could not trust its handling of the probe, but says it did not receive one.

Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, died on February 13 at a Kuala Lumpur airport.

Malaysia has not directly blamed North Korea for the attack, in which two women smeared the nerve agent VX on Kim Jong-nam’s face. However, there is widespread suspicion North Korea was responsible.

Kang Chol, who had become a fierce critic of Malaysia, said the probe into the killing had become “politicized” and was being interfered with.

The foreign minister declared the ambassador “persona non grata”, and said his country had demanded an apology for the comments, but this was not forthcoming.

Image source Getty Images

Anifah Aman said in a statement: “Malaysia will react strongly against any insults made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation.”

Ambassador Kang Chol also failed to turn up for a meeting at the Malaysian foreign ministry on March 4, he added.

Malaysia is seeking to question several North Koreans, including an embassy official, over the death of Kim Jong-nam.

Two women, one from Vietnam another from Indonesia, have been charged with murder. They both said they thought they were taking part in a TV prank, but are yet to make a formal plea in their case.

The expulsion of the North Korean ambassador also comes after the Malaysian government announced an investigation into a company called Glocom, which has been operating in Malaysia for several years.

According to a confidential United Nations report, Glocom is run by North Korea’s top intelligence agency to sell military communications equipment, in violation of UN sanctions.

Malaysia was one of very few countries that had relatively friendly relations with North Korea.

However, it canceled visa-free travel for visiting North Koreans in the wake of the killing, citing security reasons. It had already recalled its ambassador in Pyongyang as it investigated the case.

North Korea has not yet confirmed that the body is that of Kim Jong-nam, acknowledging him only as a North Korean citizen.

Kim Jong-nam was traveling using a passport under a different name.

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North Korea has reacted for the first time to Kim Jong-nam’s assassination saying that Malaysia is responsible for the death of one of its citizens and is attempting to politicize the return of his body.

It does not name Kim Jong-nam, but the KCNA report appears to be state media’s first reference to the death of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother.

Kim Jong-un died after being poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport and his body remains in a hospital mortuary.

Several North Koreans are wanted in connection with his death.

They include a senior official at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur as well as an employee of the state airline, Air Koryo.

Four other North Koreans named earlier in the case are thought to have left Malaysia already, while another North Korean is in detention.

Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said on February 23 that he had asked international police agency Interpol to issue an alert for the four.

On February 22, Malaysian police confirmed that Kim Jong-nam died after two women – also in detention – wiped a toxin on his face while he was waiting for a flight to Macau.

It said the attack was “planned” and that the women had been well trained. They have not directly blamed the North Korean state, but said North Koreans were clearly behind it.

Kim Jong-nam was once seen as a possible successor to his father, Kim Jong-il, but was bypassed in favor of his younger half brother, Kim Jong-un, and spent many years living abroad.

He had been travelling on a passport under the name Kim Chol.

Malaysia says it believes the man was indeed Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-un, though it is seeking family DNA samples for official confirmation, a request North Korea called “absurd”.

KCNA said only that “a citizen of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]” who was traveling on a diplomatic passport had died due to “a heart stroke”.

It said reports of a poisoning were false and Malaysia was part of an “anti-DPRK conspiratorial racket launched by the South Korean authorities”.

Conducting a post-mortem on the holder of a diplomatic passport without state permission was “a wanton human rights abuse and an act contrary to human ethics and morality”, it said.

“The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia,” said the KCNA report, and the refusal to hand the body back to North Korean officials “proves that the Malaysian side is going to politicize the transfer of the body in utter disregard of international law and morality and thus attain a sinister purpose”.

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Malaysian police has detained a female suspect in connection with the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam.

According to police, the woman was arrested at the airport in the capital Kuala Lumpur where Kim Jong-nam was targeted in an apparent poisoning on February 13.

The woman was in possession of a Vietnamese travel document.

Malaysian police say they are looking for “a few” other suspects.

According to police, the arrested suspect, who was alone, was identified from CCTV footage taken at the airport. She has been identified as 28 year-old Doan Thi Huong.

South Korean media have widely reported that two women, said to be North Korean agents, were involved and fled the airport in a taxi, though Malaysian police have not confirmed those details.

Kim Jong-nam is thought to have fallen out of favor with Kim Jong-il in 2001 after he was caught trying to sneak into Japan using a false passport

A grainy image broadcast in South Korea and Malaysia shows a woman wearing a white T-shirt with the letters “LOL” written on the front.

Malaysia is yet to formally confirm that the dead man is Kim Jong-nam, as he was travelling under a different name – Kim Chol. However, the South Korean government has said it is certain it is him.

The South Korean spy agency is said to have told lawmakers they believe Kim Jong-nam was poisoned.

Earlier, Malaysia state news agency Bernama reported that a woman from Myanmar was detained at the airport. It is unclear if that report was referring to the woman now under arrest.

If confirmed, it would be the most high-profile death linked to North Korea since Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Chang Song-thaek, was executed in 2013.

North Korea has not commented on the death but officials from the country’s Malaysian embassy have been visiting the hospital in Kuala Lumpur where Kim Jong-nam’s body has been taken.

On February 13, Kim Jong-nam was attacked while waiting at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport for a 10:00 flight to Macau, Malaysian newspaper reports say, quoting police.

Exactly how the attack unfolded is still unclear. Officials and witnesses have variously said he was splashed with a chemical or had a cloth placed over his face. Earlier reports spoke of a “spray” being used or a needle.

Kim Jong-nam died on the way to hospital.

It was not the first time Kim Jong-nam had traveled under an assumed identity: he was caught trying to enter Japan using a false passport in 2001. He told officials he had been planning to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

He was reportedly targeted for assassination in the past. A North Korean spy jailed by South Korea in 2012 is said to have admitted trying to organize a hit-and-run accident targeting him.

North Korea has a long history of sending agents overseas to carry out assassinations, attacks and kidnappings.

Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, has been killed in Malaysia, South Korean and Malaysian sources say.

The 45-year-old is said to have been targeted at the airport in Kuala Lumpur.

According to local media, his body was now undergoing an autopsy.

Kim Jong-nam was the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Malaysian police have confirmed to Reuters that a North Korean man who died in transit to hospital from the airport on February 13 was Kim Jong-nam.

Kim Jong-nam is thought to have fallen out of favor with Kim Jong-il in 2001 after he was caught trying to sneak into Japan using a false passport

According to a report from TV Chosun, a cable TV network in South Korea, Kim Jong-nam was poisoned at the airport by two women, believed to be North Korean operatives.

In 2001, Kim Jong-nam was caught trying to enter Japan using a false passport. He told officials that he was planning to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

Once seen as a likely successor to Kim Jong-il, he was thought to have fallen out of favor with his father over the incident.

Bypassed in favor of his youngest half-brother for succession when their father died in 2011, Kim Jong-nam kept a low profile, spending most of his time overseas in Macau, Singapore and China.

Kim Jong-nam was quoted by Japanese media in 2011 as saying he opposed “dynastic succession”.

In a 2012 book, he was also quoted as saying he believed his younger half-brother lacked leadership qualities, the succession would not work and that North Korea was unstable and needed Chinese-style economic reform.

Kim Jong-nam was reportedly targeted for assassination in the past. A North Korean spy jailed by South Korea in 2012 was reported to have admitted trying to organize a hit-and-run accident targeting Kim Jong-nam.

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Controversial Malaysian rapper Namewee has been arrested after complaints that his most recent music video “insulted Islam”.

Namewee, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee, was detained on August 21. He is known for his profanity-laced music.

The offending video, for his song Oh My God, was first released in July and features him rapping in front of places of worship around Malaysia.

Namewee, 33, insists that his song was intended to promote religious harmony.

Photo Facebook

Photo Facebook

On August 22, Malaysian police remanded Namewee in custody for four days to investigate him for “defiling a place of worship with intention to insult religion”. The charge carries a jail term of up to two years.

About two thirds of Malaysians are Muslim, though the country also has significant Buddhist, Christian and Hindu populations. But there have been a number of instances in recent years of blogs and certain representations of Islam stoking controversy in Malaysia.

Namewee makes several religious references, using terms such as “Allah” and “Hallelujah”.

The singer and three others also appear to sing and dance in front of Buddhist and Taoist temples, inside a church and outside a mosque.

The latest version of the video uploaded to YouTube on 20 August, however, does not appear to include a sequence in front of a mosque.

Representatives from 20 local NGOs lodged some 10 reports against the singer.

Namewee was arrested on August 21 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport after returning from an overseas trip.

On August 22, Namewee posted a statement on his Facebook page where he says the intention of the Oh My God video was only to promote religious harmony.

The singer responded to people asking why he had returned to Malaysia when he could have evaded arrest by staying abroad by saying that he had done nothing wrong.

“If I’ve not done any wrong, why should I run and hide? [Malaysia] is my home, my land.”

Singing in Mandarin Chinese, Namewee is also hugely popular in Taiwan and China. But this is not his first brush with controversy.

In one of his previous videos Namewee questions Malaysia’s national energy provider over a blackout and another video featured a parody of the national anthem, which almost landed him in jail.

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Malaysia has banned the first Islamic-compliant airline, Rayani Air, for breaching regulations.

The country’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) said it was revoking Rayani Air’s certification because of concerns over its safety audit and administration.

Launched in December 2015, Rayani Air offers only halal food, no alcohol and crew wearing modest clothing.

The airline has two Boeing 737-400 planes in its fleet, each able to carry about 180 passengers, eight pilots and 50 crew.

The DCA said on June 13 that Rayani Air could no longer operate as a commercial airline.

Photo Twitter

Photo Twitter

It follows a three month suspension after Rayani Air failed to follow flight regulations. A safety audit was later conducted to assess its operations.

Malaysia’s aviation commission said in a statement that Rayani Air “had breached the conditions of its Air Service Licence [ASL] and lacks the financial and management capacity to continue operating as a commercial airline”.

The DCA said it had conducted a “thorough deliberation” on Rayani Air’s response to the safety audit.

In the lead up to its suspension, Rayani Air had faced criticism including complaints about cancelled flights as pilots went on strike.

Based on the island of Langkawi, Rayani Air had been flying to the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and the northern city of Kota Bahru.

Rayani Air had plans to fly to more Malaysian cities and eventually schedule flights to Mecca for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, reports said.

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Longest-ever captured python found on a Malaysian building site, has died, officials say.

The 26ft-long snake was spotted on April 7 under a fallen tree on the island of Penang.

The python died on April 10 after laying eggs.Longest Ever Caught Python Dies in Captivity

According to Guinness World Record, the current record for longest snake ever caught is 7.67m.

Medusa, a reticulated python weighing 348.3 lbs, is kept at a haunted house in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Malaysian snake, also thought to be a reticulated python, has not been officially measured by record keepers.

It weighed 551lbs and took 30 minutes to rescue.

The python was due to be transferred to the government’s Department of Wildlife before it died.

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According to a Swiss prosecutor, about $4 billion may have been stolen from the Malaysian state-owned fund 1MDB.

The 1MDB fund was set up in 2009 to pay for major new economic and social developments in the country.

In 2015, Swiss authorities opened an investigation into 1MDB after it amassed more than $11 billion of debt.

Switzerland’s attorney general said on January 29 there were “serious indications that funds have been misappropriated from Malaysian state companies”.

Some of the money, the office of Michael Lauber said, had been transferred to Swiss accounts held by Malaysian former public officials and current and former public officials from the United Arab Emirates.

“To date, however, the Malaysian companies concerned have made no comment on the losses they are believed to have incurred,” the attorney general’s statement said.1MDB scandal Malaysia 2016

Michael Lauber called on Malaysian authorities to give full judicial assistance to their Swiss counterparts.

A Swiss investigation into 1MDB was opened last year, citing “suspected corruption of public foreign officials, dishonest management of public interests and money laundering”.

In a statement on January 30, 1MDB said it “remains committed to fully co-operating with any lawful authority and investigation”, but had not yet heard from any foreign legal authorities.

Regulators in the US and Hong Kong are also reported to be investigating 1MDB.

The 1MDB’s advisory board is chaired by Malaysian PM Najib Razak, who launched the fund soon after taking office in 2009.

In July 2015, Malaysia’s then-Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail linked a donation of $681 million made to Najib Razak’s account with companies and bodies which had ties to 1MDB.

Abdul Gani Patail was replaced, and, after an investigation, his successor last week cleared Najib Razak of corruption saying that the money was a personal donation by the Saudi royal family to the prime minister’s private bank account.

“I am satisfied that there is no evidence to show that the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly,” said Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Most of the money was later returned, he said.

Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission said it would seek a review of the attorney-general’s decision.

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Malaysian PM Najib Razak has been cleared of corruption in a long-running financial scandal that has gripped the country.

According to the attorney-general’s office, the $681 million that Najib Razak received in his bank account was a personal donation from the Saudi royal family.

Critics had alleged the money came from state-owned investment fund 1MDB.Najib Razak corruption

Najib Razak has consistently denied these accusations, but has faced pressure to resign over them.

Anti-corruption officials have previously said he received money as a gift from a foreign funder.

Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali said in a press statement on January 26 that the amount was a “personal donation” from the royal family in Saudi Arabia, transferred between the end of March and early April 2013.

He added that anti-corruption officials had met witnesses including the person they identified as the donor to confirm it.

“I am satisfied that there is no evidence to show that the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly,” Mohamed Apandi Ali said, adding that evidence did not show the donation was used as an “inducement or reward” for Najib Razak to do anything in his capacity as prime minister.

Malaysia held its last general election in May 2013, which returned Najib Razak’s party to power but with one of its poorest showings on record.

The attorney general also said no criminal offence was committed by Najib Razak in relation to three other related investigations and that no further action would be taken.

Two Malaysians and one Pakistani have been arrested in Malaysia in connection with last month’s deadly bombing at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok, Thailand.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said they were detained a few days ago and were assisting with the investigation.

Thailand has launched a manhunt for those responsible for the bombing which killed 20 people and injured 120 on August 17.

Thai police have arrested two people and are searching for a third man, said to be from China’s Xinjiang region.

Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters on September 14 that the three suspects are a Pakistani man, a Malaysian man, and a Malaysian woman, who were arrested based on a tip-off from Thai authorities.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

He said the suspects would not yet be transferred to Thailand, as Malaysian police are still investigating. He did not give further details on the reason for their detention.

No group has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack at the Erawan shrine, but Thailand has alleged that a network which includes foreigners was behind the bombing.

Over the weekend, Thailand issued an arrest warrant for a 27-year-old Muslim man called Abudusataer Abudureheman, also known as Ishan, from Xinjiang.

Abudusataer Abudureheman is reported to have left Bangkok for Bangladesh one day before the bomb blast, and is believed by police to have played a prominent role in the attack.

Thai authorities have already arrested two other suspects: Adem Karadag, whose nationality has yet to be verified, and Yusufu Meraili, who officials say is a Chinese national born in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang is home to a significant number of Uighur Muslims, and Chinese authorities have faced criticism for the perceived harsh restrictions placed on religion and culture in the region.

Thailand recently found itself in the spotlight following its forced repatriation of more than 100 Uighurs to China.

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Speaking in a public address to mark Malaysia’s National Day, PM Najib Razak said he refuses to resign after mass protests, calling for national unity.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets at the weekend, urging the prime minister to step down over allegations he took hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds.

Najib Razak said such protests were “not the proper channel to voice opinions in a democratic country”.

He has denied pocketing $700 million of public money.

The payments, first revealed by the Wall Street Journal, came from the 1MDB state investment fund, which Najib Razak set up on coming into office in 2009.

Najib Razak has removed several leading officials who had criticized his handling of the scandal.

Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency has effectively cleared the prime minister, saying the money was from foreign donors.

Police says about 25,000 people took part in the two-day demonstration at their peak, though Bersih [Clean] – the pro-democracy group behind the rallies – put the figure at 300,000.

During his National Day speech, Najib Razak said it was clear the rest of Malaysia backed the government.

“We will never allow anyone from within or from outside, [to] simply walk in and steal, ruin or destroy all that we have built so far,” the state news agency Bernama quoted the prime minister as saying.

Photo AP

Photo AP

“Let us all remember, if we are not united, lose our solidarity and cohesion, all problems will not be resolved, and everything we have laboriously built will be destroyed just like that.”

Najib Razak said protests which “disrupt public order and only inconvenience the people” did not reflect maturity and were “not the proper channel to voice opinions in a democratic country”.

His coalition, Barisan Nasional, has governed Malaysia since independence 58 years ago.

However, the coalition’s support has declined in recent elections, and its critics have accused it of arrogance.

The movement against Najib Razak has been driven by influential former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed who was also at the rally in Kuala Lumpur on August 30.

Mahathir Mohamed, who led Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 and was formerly a Najib razak ally, said it was untenable for him to continue in his position.

“There’s no more rule of law. The only way for the people to get back to the old system is for them to remove this prime minister,” he said.

“We must remove this prime minister.”

The rally in Kuala Lumpur was deemed illegal, but was allowed to go ahead, and ended peacefully late on Sunday.

Previous rallies held by the Bersih movement have been dispersed by police using tear gas and water cannon.

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The search for remaining bodies from AirAsia plane crash in the Java Sea has been officially ended on March 17, head of Indonesia’s rescue agency Bambang Soelistyo has confirmed.

AirAsia lost contact with flight QZ8501 on December 28 as it was flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore with 162 people on board.

The search effort has recovered 106 bodies, with 56 unaccounted for.

The families of those missing are disappointed but understand that the search cannot go on indefinitely.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes told reporters last week that he was satisfied with the search operation.

“We have been successful… To get more than 50% is considered a huge success,” he said.

Tony Fernandes added that the search could not “go on indefinitely”.AirAsia QZ8501 plane crash search

The fuselage of the crashed plane was located in the Java Sea in mid January and the final part of it that was recoverable was removed at the end of February. Divers established that those elements of fuselage that had to be left in the sea did not contain any bodies.

The bodies that were recovered were mostly found in and around the wreckage, with a few discovered some 625 miles away, off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Three were found as recently as March 14.

The plane’s two “black box” flight recorders were also found. They revealed several alarms were “screaming”, drowning out the sound of the pilots’ voices.

Indonesia’s transport minister has said that radar data showed the plane climbing at an abnormally high rate. This could have caused it to stall, experts say.

The plane is thought to have been attempting to fly above a storm. The pilot’s last contact was a request to divert around bad weather.

The less experienced co-pilot was at the controls at the time, investigators have said.

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In some parts of the world like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia or Indonesia, celebrating Valentine’s Day with flowers, chocolates or a glass of wine could result in severe punishment.

While Valentine’s Day is celebrated by many Indonesians, officials and Muslim clerics are less happy about the holiday.

In recent years there have been protests from conservative Indonesians, saying Valentine’s Day is un-Islamic.

They argue it promotes casual s** and the drinking of alcohol.

India

A number of political parties in India have criticized Valentine’s Day, arguing it promotes Western values and is unwelcome in India.

India used to be part of the British Empire until it declared independence on August 15, 1947.

In 2015, the Indian Hindu nationalist party Mahasabha said that they would encourage couples spotted out together on Valentine’s Day to get married, and will actually have a religious leader on standby to perform marriages.

Other groups have said that celebrating romance would encourage teenage pregnancy and instead pushed for Indians to ditch the idea of romance between boys and girls and replace Valentine’s Day with a celebration of the love between parents and children, a “Parent’s Worship Day”.

The idea began on religious leader Asaram Bapu’s website.

Indonesia

The Asian country has the world’s largest Muslim population, but is a secular nation, meaning that the government says it is neutral and neither supports nor disagrees with religion.

However, in the province of Aceh, the only place with Islamic rule, celebrations are banned as is the sale of gifts.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Iran

While giving chocolates and flowers on Valentine’s Day is increasingly popular in Iran, in the past authorities have sought to crack down on celebrations, calling the day a “decedent Western custom”.

Despite this restaurants in Tehran reported being fully booked last year and many shops could be seen selling teddy bears and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.

This was in spite of being threatened with prosecution if they sold traditional Valentine’s Day gifts.

According to the Economist, shops simply used lookouts to tell them if inspectors were coming on a Valentine’s Day patrol.

Malaysia

Last year, 80 Muslims were arrested by the Islamic morality police for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

They think Valentine’s Day encourages immoral activities.

Officers raided budget hotels in the central state of Selangor and capital, Kuala Lumpur, detaining unmarried Muslim couples who were sharing rooms.

The anti-Valentine’s Day campaign by the country’s Islamic authorities goes back to a fatwa (religious ruling) issued in 2005.

However, many Malaysians still celebrate the day and other faiths are not affected by the Valentine’s Day boycott in the country.

Additionally not all Malaysian Muslims agreed with the campaign, with some saying Valentine’s Day is harmless.

Muslims make up nearly two-thirds of the 28 million-population.

Pakistan

In 2014, there were clashes at a university in Peshawar over Valentine’s Day.

Liberal students were celebrating with red balloons and cake while another group felt such a show was un-Islamic.

Dozens of students threw rocks in the scuffle, leading to gunshots being fired by both sides and rooms in a student dormitory being set on fire.

Three students were injured and stones were thrown at police.

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, Valentine’s Day is banned by the kingdom’s religious police.

Women and men sit separately in restaurants and public displays of affection are taboo.

However, some shops continue to sell red roses and other traditional Valentine’s presents.

One shop owner described how Valentine’s Day orders are placed over the telephone to avoid detection and flowers are hidden in the back of the store.

Last August, the decision to sentence five Saudis to a total of 39 years in prison, as well as 4,500 lashes between them, was upheld.

The men had been found dancing with six women they were unrelated to on Valentine’s Day. Alcohol and red roses were also seized.

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Malaysia’s Federal Court has rejected a challenge to the ban on Christians using the word “Allah” to refer to God, in a highly divisive legal case in the Muslim-majority nation.

The case was brought by the Catholic Church, which sought to overturn a ban first put in place in 2007.

But the country’s highest court said an earlier ruling backing the ban was correct.

The case began over the use of “Allah” to refer to the Christian God in the Catholic Church’s Malay-language paper, The Herald.

Malaysia's Federal Court has rejected a challenge to the ban on Christians using the word "Allah" to refer to God

Malaysia’s Federal Court has rejected a challenge to the ban on Christians using the word “Allah” to refer to God

People of all faiths use the word Allah in Malay to refer to their deities.

Christians argue they have used the word, which entered Malay from Arabic, to refer to their God for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights.

Malaysian authorities say its use by Christians could confuse Muslims and lead some to convert to Christianity.

Malay Muslims make up almost two-thirds of the country’s population, but there are large Hindu and Christian communities.

The long-running case has proved very controversial, sparking impassioned debate and leading to occasional attacks on mosques and churches.

The Herald appealed against the initial ban and in 2009 a court ruled in its favor, but that judgement that was later overturned by the Court of Appeal.

This ruling was handed down by a seven-member panel, which voted by 4-3 to dismiss the challenge.

Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew said he was “greatly disappointed” by the judgement which “didn’t touch on the fundamental rights of minorities”.

Muslim activists outside the court welcomed the decision, however.

S Selvarajah, one of the lawyers for the Church, said the ruling marked the end of legal proceedings.

“It’s a blanket ban. Non-Muslims cannot use the word,” he told AFP news agency.

However, reports in Malaysian newspapers suggested the Church could call for a review of the decision.

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Barack Obama has arrived in Malaysia – the third leg of the US president Asian tour.

President Barack Obama is the first serving American leader to visit the predominantly-Muslim nation since 1966.

The visit signals closer bilateral relations after decades of uneasy ties.

Barack Obama is expected to seek closer trade relations with Malaysia to dilute China’s influence in the region.

The US has already provided Kuala Lumpur with military assistance, most recently in the search for the missing Malaysian airline.

President Barack Obama is the first serving American leader to visit Malaysia since 1966

President Barack Obama is the first serving American leader to visit Malaysia since 1966

Barack Obama landed at Malaysia’s Air Force base in Subang on Saturday evening local time.

The US president has already visited Japan and South Korea as part of a four-nation tour of Asia.

Ahead of the visit, Malaysia’s government controlled newspapers printed the American flag on their front pages, along with the words “Welcome, Mr. President”.

But some analysts say it has taken Barack Obama too long to visit Malaysia, especially since he lived in the region as a child.

American presidents had stayed away because of years of anti-Western rhetoric under former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad, but current PM Najib Razak wants Washington to recognize Malaysia as a global player.

In his turn, Barack Obama wants Kuala Lumpur to sign a free trade deal with 10 other nations – the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said relations between the US and Malaysia had blossomed in recent years.

Malaysia has become a “pivotal state” in the Obama administration’s push to strengthen ties throughout the fast-growing and strategically important region, the Associated Press quoted Ben Rhodes as saying.

However, some Malay Muslims claim that the US-led trade deal will reduce their economic privileges over other ethnic groups in the country.

Barack Obama arrived in Malaysia from South Korea and will finish his Asian tour in the Philippines on April 29.

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The Future Music Festival final day has been cancelled in Malaysia following a death at the event.

Acts including Rudimental, Eric Prydz and Pharrell Williams were due to perform in Kuala Lumpur.

Organizers say they have taken local authorities’ advice to not proceed with Day 3 of the festival.

Details of who died are not known, but reports of five deaths linked to drugs have been dismissed.

The Future Music Festival final day has been cancelled in Malaysia following a death at the event

The Future Music Festival final day has been cancelled in Malaysia following a death at the event

In a post on the festival’s Facebook page, organizers wrote: “A police report has been filed and we are working very closely with all relevant authorities in examining and determining the cause of this very unfortunate incident.

“In the interest of public safety we have heeded the authority’s advice to not proceed with Day-3 of Future Music Festival Asia 2014.

“This is also to help in the ongoing investigation. We appreciate the understanding of all parties and will share updates on this matter as soon as possible. “

Refunds are being offered through the event’s website.

The Future Music Festival (FMF) has been running in Malaysia since 2012. It’s a spin-off of the same event which has been held in various Australian cities since 2006.

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Malaysia has summoned the heads of the US and Australian diplomatic missions in Kuala Lumpur over a row about an alleged American-led spying network in Asia.

According to the Malaysian foreign ministry, the reports of spying could “severely damage” relations.

It said a protest note was handed over.

Malaysia has summoned the heads of the US and Australian diplomatic missions in Kuala Lumpur over a row about an alleged American-led spying network in Asia

Malaysia has summoned the heads of the US and Australian diplomatic missions in Kuala Lumpur over a row about an alleged American-led spying network in Asia

China and Indonesia have already protested at the claims that Australian embassies were being used to monitor phones and collect data for the US.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said “such activities are not done amongst close friends”.

Anifah Aman said his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, replied that it was not her government’s policy to comment on intelligence matters, but she accepted Malaysia’s concerns.

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) has reported that Australian diplomatic posts in Asia were being used to intercept phone calls and data.

The reports were based on an NSA document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has declined to comment on the reports.

Australian PM Tony Abbott said: “Every Australian governmental agency, every Australian official… operates in accordance with the law.”

The White House has announced President Barack Obama would not now visit Malaysia and the Philippines because of the government shutdown but would still travel to Indonesia and Brunei on his four-nation Asian tour.

Malaysia had already announced Barack Obama would be replaced by Secretary of State John Kerry for the visit next week.

The US government has partially shut down after the two houses of Congress failed to agree a new budget.

More than 700,000 federal employees face unpaid leave, and national parks, museums and many buildings are closed.

Barack Obama earlier vowed not to allow Republicans to undermine his signature healthcare legislation as a condition to restart the US government.

“They demanded ransom,” Barack Obama said.

Barack Obama had been scheduled to begin his four-nation Asian trip on Saturday to boost economic ties.

President Barack Obama would not now visit Malaysia and the Philippines because of the government shutdown

President Barack Obama would not now visit Malaysia and the Philippines because of the government shutdown

Earlier, the office of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Barack Obama had called him on Wednesday to inform him that Mr Kerry would address an entrepreneurship conference in Kuala Lumpur on October 11 in his place.

Barack Obama has been forced to call off trips to Asia before.

In 2010, a vote on health care and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill forced separate cancellations in March and June, though he did make it to India, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia in November of that year.

The US government ceased operations deemed non-essential at midnight on Tuesday, when the previous budget expired.

National parks and Washington’s Smithsonian museums are closed, pension and veterans’ benefit cheques will be delayed, and visa and passport applications will go unprocessed.

However, members of the military will be paid.

One group of elderly military veterans managed to bypass the shutdown when the WWII Memorial in Washington DC – that they had travelled from Mississippi to see – was opened for them.

President Barack Obama has blamed conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives for the government shutdown, saying “one faction of one party” was responsible because “they didn’t like one law”.

“They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans,” the president said.

The White House rejected a Republican plan to fund only a few portions of the government – national parks, veterans’ programmes and the budget of the District of Columbia.

The Republicans have called for more negotiations.

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Malaysia’s ruling National Front coalition has won a simple majority in the country’s parliamentary election, extending its 56-year rule, with two-thirds of seats confirmed.

PM Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional coalition had passed the threshold of 112 seats in the 222-seat parliament, the Election Commission said.

Defeated opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accused the party of widespread fraud before and during the polls.

Some 80% of registered voters cast ballots, said election officials.

Voters had been faced with returning the ruling party, or choosing Anwar Ibrahim’s untested three-party alliance, Pakatan Rakyat.

As the result was confirmed, Najib Razak, 59, urged all Malaysians to accept his coalition’s victory.

Malaysia’s ruling National Front coalition has won a simple majority in the country's parliamentary election, extending its 56-year rule

Malaysia’s ruling National Front coalition has won a simple majority in the country’s parliamentary election, extending its 56-year rule

“The results show a trend of polarization which worries the government. If it is not addressed, it can create tension or division in the country,” he said.

“We have to show to the world that we are a mature democracy.”

With results trickling in overnight, Barisan Nasional had won 127 seats to Pakatan Rakyat’s 77 by 03:30, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier, Najib Razak had said he was confident Malaysians would retain his coalition and even return the two-thirds parliamentary majority it lost in the 2008 polls.

Barisan Nasional, while credited with bringing economic development and political stability, has also been tainted by allegations of corruption.

In what was considered a tight race, it had campaigned hard to shore up its base among poorer ethnic Malay neighborhoods and in rural areas.

But Anwar Ibrahim refused to concede defeat, accusing the authorities of widespread abuses which he said had distorted the result of the election.

“It is an election that we consider fraudulent and the Electoral Commission has failed,” he told a news conference after midnight on Monday.

Allegations of election fraud surfaced before the election. Some of those who voted in advance said that indelible ink on their hands – supposed to last for days and show they had already voted – had easily washed off.

The opposition also accused the government of funding flights for supporters to key states, which the government denied.

Independent pollster Merdeka Center also cited unconfirmed reports of foreign nationals being given ID documents and being allowed to vote.

The international organization Human Rights Watch also said there had been well-planned attacks against the country’s independent media ahead of the polls.

Most traditional media in Malaysia are linked to the governing parties so their opponents rely almost exclusively on the internet to get their message out, correspondents say.

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Malaysia is voting in what is widely expected to be the most closely contested general election in the country’s history.

PM Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition is up against Pakatan Rakyat, a three-party alliance headed by Anwar Ibrahim.

Malaysian PM Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional coalition is up against Pakatan Rakyat, a three-party alliance headed by Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysian PM Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional coalition is up against Pakatan Rakyat, a three-party alliance headed by Anwar Ibrahim

Voters are faced with returning the ruling party, in power for 56 years, or choosing an untested opposition.

Ahead of the polls, allegations of various forms of fraud emerged.

At polling station in the capital Kuala Lumpur queues had formed well before voting began.

Analysts say that for the first time since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, there is a real possibility that the opposition may be able to unseat the ruling party. Opinion polls suggest support for the two sides is evenly matched.

The possibility of an end to more than half a century of one-party rule has made this the hardest-fought election anyone can remember.

The hunger for change, especially among younger Malaysians, has given the opposition real momentum during the campaign.

But the ruling party has significant advantages in the cash it has spent on crowd-pleasing hand-outs, and in the way Malaysia’s parliamentary system over-represents rural areas, where the government’s support is strongest.

Nearly eight million people cast ballots in the first four hours of voting, comprising almost 60% of the 13.3 million registered voters, the election commission said.

Barisan Nasional, while credited with bringing economic development and political stability, has also been tainted by allegations of corruption.

But it remains to be seen whether Anwar Ibrahim’s coalition, comprising parties of different ethnicities and religions, can persuade voters to choose an alternative government.

Najib Razak, 59, said he was confident that Malaysians would retain his coalition and even return the two-thirds parliamentary majority Barisan Nasional lost in the 2008 polls.

During the last four years, Najib Razak said during a campaign rally on Thursday, the coalition had proved it could “protect and benefit all Malaysians”.

“The task of transformation is not over yet,” he told supporters in his home state of Pahang on Saturday.

Mohamed Rafiq Idris, a car business owner waiting to vote in the central state of Selangor, told the Associated Press news agency the ruling coalition had made “some mistakes” but he believed it would do its best to take care of the people’s welfare.

But first-time voter Bernie Lim, a banker, said: “I grew up recognizing that my parents voted for the present coalition at almost every general election. This time, they voted for the opposition. People do change.”

Anwar Ibrahim, 65, has said people’s clamor for change means that Pakatan Rakyat will emerge victorious.

“People have enough of this semi-authoritarian rule, of complete [government] control of the media, of strong arrogance, of power and endemic corruption,” he told AP in an interview.

He advised supporters “to remain calm, not to be provoked, not to take the law into their own hands, support the process”.

“Unless there’s a major massive fraud tomorrow – that is our nightmare – we will win,” he told AFP news agency.

Allegations of election fraud surfaced before the election. Some of those who voted in advance complained that indelible ink – supposed to last for days – easily washed off.

The opposition has also accused the government of funding flights for supporters to key states, which the government denies.

Independent pollster Merdeka Center has received unconfirmed reports of foreign nationals being given IDs and allowed to vote.

The international organization Human Rights Watch said there had been well-planned attacks against the country’s independent media ahead of the polls.

It said on Thursday that readers were unable to access several online news sites providing coverage of opposition candidates.

Officially, just 18 foreign electoral observers are in Malaysia. They are joined by 1,200 local observers from 17 non-governmental organizations.

The electoral commission said on Saturday that the foreign observers comprised six each from Indonesia and Thailand, and two each from Burma, Cambodia and the ASEAN secretariat.

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Malaysian troops have launched an assault on armed members of a Filipino clan in an ongoing conflict that has left at least 27 dead on Borneo island.

The ground troops are backed by fighter jets, with reports of several explosions near Lahad Datu, where the group of about 180 Filipinos are.

The operation to oust the clan began on Tuesday at 07:00 a.m., the Malaysian government said.

Seven army battalions were deployed to the area on Monday to reinforce police.

Among the aircraft used in the assault were an F-18 and a Hawk fighter aircraft, Malaysian state news agency Bernama reports. Helicopters were also seen flying in the area.

Malaysian National Police Chief Ismail Omar said they achieved their targets in the offensive and that there were no troop casualties.

Ismail Omar did not provide any details about the Filipinos, who he said fired at the Malaysian troops. But a spokesman for the group told Philippine television the men were safe, Reuters news agency reports.

The Filipinos landed at a coastal village in Lahad Datu district on the island of Borneo last month, saying that the territory was theirs.

Calling themselves the Royal Army of Sulu, the clan members said they were descendants of the Sultanate of Sulu in the southern Philippines, which ruled parts of northern Borneo for centuries, and demanded that the Malaysian government pay more money to lease their land.

Malaysia refused their demands and urged the group to return home.

On Monday, the Philippine government appealed to Malaysia to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further bloodshed, and sent Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to Kuala Lumpur for talks.

Officials said he would request that a Philippine navy ship be permitted to sail to Lahad Datu to bring the clan members home.

Malaysian troops have launched an assault on armed members of a Filipino clan in an ongoing conflict that has left at least 27 dead on Borneo island

Malaysian troops have launched an assault on armed members of a Filipino clan in an ongoing conflict that has left at least 27 dead on Borneo island

In the capital, Manila, protesters are outside the Malaysian embassy, urging a peaceful resolution to the stand-off, reports say.

“We’ve done everything we could to prevent this, but in the end, Kiram’s people chose this path,” Philippine presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang said on Tuesday of clan leader Jamalul Kiram III.

Eight Malaysian troops and 19 clan members have already been killed in the three-week stand-off.

Twelve were killed along with two Malaysian policemen when Malaysian security forces tried to tighten the cordon around the occupied village on Friday.

The incident sparked violence in another area over the weekend, in which seven clan members and six policemen died.

Jamalul Kiram’s brother has said they are not violating any laws because Sabah is “owned by the Sultan of Sulu” and insisted that they have a right to defend themselves if attacked.

However, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said over the weekend that its forces were authorized to “take any action deemed necessary”.

In a statement on Tuesday, Najib Razak said the assault had become necessary because security forces had been killed and Malaysians in Sabah feared for their safety.

“After the first attack, I stressed that the intruders must surrender themselves or the security forces will have to act,” he said in comments carried by Bernama.

Najib Razak said police had held negotiations with the Filipinos in the hope they would leave peacefully, but that “as the intrusion prolonged it was evident to the authorities that the intruders had no intention of withdrawing from Sabah”.

“The government has to take the right action in order to preserve the pride and sovereignty of this country,” he said in his statement.

Najib Razak has come under increasing political pressure in Malaysia to end the incursion, with the opposition criticizing him for allowing it to continue. The Philippine government is also coming under pressure to do more to protect the Filipino clan.

Sabah shares a sea border with the southern Philippines, which is home to a number of Islamic militant and kidnap-for-ransom groups. The journey between the two can take only a few hours.

It formed part of the Sulu Sultanate – which once spread over several southern Philippine islands as well as parts of Borneo – before it was designated a British protectorate in the 1800s.

Sabah became part of Malaysia in 1963, and the country still pays a token rent to the Sulu Sultanate each year.

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