Isabela City skirmish

November 24, 2008


November 24, 2008


Isabela City, Sulu Archipelago, Philippines

  • Philippine victory
  • Philippine declaration of war against Malaysia
  • Entrance of Philippines into the Borneo War

Flag of Malaya Malaysia

Flag of the Philippines Philippines


Flag of Malaya Ahmad Salamuddin
Flag of Malaya Osama Rajah
Flag of Malaya Omar Sultan

Flag of the Philippines Juan Carlos
Flag of the Philippines Datu Dawud Ali
Flag of the Philippines Datu Bashir Gintag
Flag of the Philippines Ismail Rodriguez
Flag of the Philippines Datu Bakir Bantilan


45 men

Army: 93 men
Police: 105 men

Casualties and Losses

8 killed
11 captured

3 soldiers injured
1 soldier killed
21 police men killed
131 civilians killed
313 civilian injured

The Isabela City skirmish (Filipino: Makipaglaban sa Isabela City, Malay: Pertelingkahan Kota Isabela, Chavacano: Escaramuza de Cuidad Isabela) was an incident in the city of Kumalarang (then Isabela City), located in the Sulu Archipelago of the southern Philippines, in which a group of 45 armed men in masks opened fire in a mixed crowd of Catholics and Muslims. The attack occurred on November 24, 2008 Philippine time. Blame was pointed towards Malaysian-supported militants, or either Malaysian soldiers themselves.

However, the Malaysian government claimed that they were likely Bangsamoro rebels and had no involvement. The Indonesian government joined the blame against Malaysia, having already declared war with them twelve days prior.

Prior to the conflict, the Philippine National Police and the Mindanao Constabulary had reported high Malaysian activity near the southern Philippines. The Filipino army dismissed the Mindanao Constabulary's warnings, and claimed that Malaysians may just be preparing to tighten their defenses against a possible Indonesian or Bangsamoro attack. The skirmish had forced the Philippines to enter the Borneo War against Malaysia, opening up the Sulu Front. The Philippines originally intended on independently entering the war with no involvement with Indonesia or the independence movement in Sarawak. However, they eventually ended up forming a loose coalition with Indonesia, with the intent of exhausting Malaysia to surrender Borneo.

The Philippine entrance into the war originally started out with the intent of retaliating for what they deemed as Malaysian attack on Philippine soil, but eventually the attention turned into the Philippine invasion of Sabah.

About 131 Filipinos were killed in the attack, about another 313 injured. About 21 Filipino policemen and 5 constables were killed, 11 injured in the standoff.