The prime minister of Malaysia warned Friday that followers of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram must leave Lahad Datu town in Sabah, Malaysia before Malaysian forces take action.
"The group must realize that what they are doing is a serious offense and I hope they will accept the offer to leave peacefully as soon as possible," Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said in a report in The Star Online.
The Malaysian official said authorities are treading carefully to avoid bloodshed in the ongoing standoff.
On Friday, Malaysian forces and followers of Raja Muda engaged in a firefight that Kiram claimed left several fatalities. The information on the casualties is still being verified by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas earlier warned the Malaysian government is already losing patience over the refusal of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III's followers to leave Sabah and return to the Philippines.
The Malaysian government has already given three extensions on the deadline for some 180 followers of Kiram who have been holed up in Lahad Datu town for two weeks now.
Kiram said he and his men will not leave until the sultanate of Sulu's claim over Sabah is recognized by the Malaysian government.