Philippine extremists stage mass jailbreak

Philippine soldiers guarding members of the Maute extremist group on a military vehicle in Marawi city on the southern island of Mindanao last Tuesday, a day after they were arrested at a military checkpoint when bombs and pistols were found in the v
Philippine soldiers guarding members of the Maute extremist group on a military vehicle in Marawi city on the southern island of Mindanao last Tuesday, a day after they were arrested at a military checkpoint when bombs and pistols were found in the van they were travelling in. The Maute group members were later freed by their comrades in a jailbreak on Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Heavily armed ISIS-linked group attacks jail in Mindanao and frees 8 comrades and 15 others

MARAWI (Philippines) • Extremists who support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have staged a daring jailbreak in the southern Philippines, freeing 23 detainees in the latest in a series of mass escapes.

About 50 heavily armed members of the Maute group raided the local jail in the southern city of Marawi on Mindanao island on Saturday and freed eight comrades who were arrested barely a week ago, police said yesterday.

Fifteen other detainees, held for serious offences, also escaped in the raid, said provincial jail warden Acmad Tabao.

Police earlier said that 28 inmates escaped but Mr Tabao clarified the figure.

Mr Tabao told reporters that two women came to the prison gate, asking the guard to take delivery of some food for the detainees. When the guard opened the gate, hooded men forced their way into the compound.

They overwhelmed the guards, forcing them to their knees and taking two rifles before freeing the inmates.

 

The hooded men shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) before fleeing in a prison vehicle to a nearby lake. The Maute gang members then fled by boat while the other inmates scattered, Mr Tabao said.

The Maute group is a militant group based in Mindanao. It has carried out kidnappings and bombings and is believed to have led an attack on an army outpost in the Mindanao town of Butig in February.

At the jail, two bullet holes and a shattered television set were the only evidence of the attack.

The eight Maute group members were arrested on Aug 22 after soldiers manning a checkpoint found improvised bombs and pistols in the van they were travelling in.

The Maute group is a militant group based in Mindanao. It has carried out kidnappings and bombings and is believed to have led an attack on an army outpost in the Mindanao town of Butig in February.

The fighting there lasted a week, leaving numerous fatalities and forcing thousands to flee their homes as helicopter gunships fought off the attackers.

During the Butig fighting, the group's members were seen carrying black ISIS flags while bandanas bearing the ISIS insignia were found in their base, the military said.

The authorities said they were investigating the jailbreak and the reason why security had not been increased after high-risk suspects were brought in.

It was the latest of several mass escapes from poorly secured Philippine jails, with the incidents often involving Muslim extremists.

In 2009, more than 100 armed men raided a jail in the strife-torn southern island of Basilan, freeing 31 prisoners including several guerillas.

The southern Philippines has been plagued by separatist insurgencies for over four decades, with the conflict leaving more than 120,000 dead.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is pursuing peace talks with the largest insurgent groups, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which have ceasefire agreements with the government.

Smaller bands like the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf group are not covered by the ceasefires and are not part of the peace process.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'Philippine extremists stage mass jailbreak'. Print Edition | Subscribe