Suspected Muslim extremists free 158 from jail in Mindanao

Police patrolling the perimeter of the Armas district jail yesterday. About 100 armed men had scaled the walls with ladders and stormed the compound, targeting cells that held high-profile inmates.
Police patrolling the perimeter of the Armas district jail yesterday. About 100 armed men had scaled the walls with ladders and stormed the compound, targeting cells that held high-profile inmates.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Suspected Muslim extremists stormed a provincial jail in the war-torn southern Philippine island group of Mindanao early yesterday, freeing 158 inmates, including suspected bomb-makers.

Reports received by radio stations said the inmates escaped when about 100 armed men attacked the jail in Armas district in Kidapawan city, North Cotabato province, at around 1am on Wednesday.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology said one prison guard and five inmates were killed, and that at least eight escapees have been recaptured.

Radio network DzBB reported that three of those who were set free were suspected bomb-makers from the 105th Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a secessionist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The BIFF is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is holding peace talks with the Philippine government.

Jail warden Peter Bongat told The Philippine Star: "It was not a jailbreak. It was a planned rescue of certain detainees."

He said about 100 men opened fire after cutting the jail's power lines. They then scaled the walls with wooden ladders and stormed the compound, targeting cells that held high-profile inmates. There were 1,511 inmates at the time.

Superintendent Bongat said there were intelligence reports that an attack on the jail was imminent.

The prison staff was reinforced with soldiers over the weekend, but they were pulled out on Monday.

Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for the BIFF, denied that his group was behind the attack, according to a report from Catholic radio station dxMS.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2017, with the headline 'Suspected Muslim extremists free 158 from jail in Mindanao'. Print Edition | Subscribe