A Daesh-linked group has sprung eight of its suspected members from a southern Philippines prison — the latest mass escape from poorly secured jails in the country.
About 50 heavily-armed members of the Maute Group were reported Sunday to have raided a local jail in the southern city of Marawi on Saturday, freeing the eight and 20 other detainees.
Local news site Inquirer quoted Senior Supt. Agustine Tello, the Lanao del Sur police director, as saying that personnel manning the jail were overpowered by the attackers “who came in with guns blazing past 5 p.m. [0900GMT]”.
He added that a manhunt, backed by the military, had been launched, and authorities are reported to be investigating why security had not been increased after such high-risk suspects were brought in.
Minda News quoted the regional police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Chief Supt. Agripino Javier, as saying that the suspects “escaped through motorized boat and fled in an unknown direction”.
The eight — three of them women — were arrested Aug. 22 after soldiers manning an army checkpoint found improvised bombs and pistols in a vehicle they were driving.
The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency has said that the men who sprung the eight were led by Abdullah Maute.
The military has blamed the Maute Group — reportedly led by Abdullah and his brother, Omar — for a series of kidnappings in Lanao province in the ARMM and holds it responsible for the beheading of two sawmill workers in Butig town in Lanao del Sur in April.
The group has carried out other kidnappings and bombings and is believed to have led an attack on an army outpost in the Mindanao town of Butig in February, which forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes as helicopter gunships fought off the attackers.
The military has said that during the fighting, the group’s members were seen carrying the black flags of Daesh, and bandanas bearing their insignia were found in their base.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to eradicate such groups.
Saturday’s jailbreak was the latest mass escape from the country’s jails, with many of the incidents often involving members of militants groups from the Muslim south.