Armed men with links to the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group have stormed a prison in the south of the country, killing a guard and freeing more than a 150 inmates, authorities said.
Initial reports suggested that the gunmen responsible for Wednesday’s jailbreak were a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Philippine’s largest Muslim rebel organisation.
A two-hour firefight broke out when more than 100 armed men believed to have been led by a local Muslim rebel commander attacked the jail in Kidapawan city at about 1am, jail authorities said.
“It’s to rescue their comrades under our custody. It is a rescue operation,” local media quoted jail warden Peter John Bonggat as saying.
“The [inmates] took chances because of the volume of fire … they used their bedding, piled them on top of each other to escape,” Bonggat added.
At least 158 prisoners had escaped the prison. It was unclear how many of those were linked to the attackers or were just other inmates who took advantage of the chaos.
Six prisoners were reportedly killed in the police hunt and another six were recaptured.
The jail, a ramshackle former school building located in a forested area, housed 1,511 inmates. Three inmates facing charges of illegal possession of explosives and drugs escaped from this jail last year.