The Malaysian forces began by sending airstrikes and attacks around the city, to distract the Indonesians into guarding the areas around Tarakan. The Malaysian attacks pounded pockets of Indonesian forces around the city, causing them to retreat to Tarakan, completing the Malaysian encirclement, which essentially backfired on the Malaysians later on.
Malaysian airborne brigades landed in the city on February 12, 2008, attacking Indonesian police forces and any other armed personnel in the city. For the first day of battle, the Malaysians engaged in armed conflict against the Indonesian National Guard and the Tarakan Armed Rifle Guard. It isn't until Indonesian helicopters and reinforcements arrived, to engage in house-to-house searches for Malaysian troops - eventually meeting them in street fights and house to house fighting.
The battle lasted for one week, with the Indonesians emerging victorious as a result of the Indonesian Navy's success against Malaysia's invading naval forces.