At least one jail officer was killed in the early hours of Wednesday when an armed group stormed the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan City, Philippines.
According to PhilStar, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s (BJMP) has stated that an estimated 158 detainees fled the jail during the early raid that took place at 1.15am and lasted over two hours.
The attack began with a power outage that was followed by heavy gunfire originating from the rear of the complex and targeted specific buildings, prison warden Peter Bungat explained.
Gunmen targeted two cells in which high-profile inmates were being housed, then went on to release inmates from a number of other surrounding cells.
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According to police reports, Jail Officer 1 Excell Vicedo was wounded on his right chest and was brought to the provincial jail but died a few hours later.
At least one inmate was injured during the exchange and was immediately rushed to hospital.
It appears that this was an orchestrated attack by an organised group.
“It was not a jailbreak. It was a planned rescue of certain detainees,” Bungat was quoted saying in the report. “It’s well planned. Escapees used blanket as their getaway.”
Initial reports suggest that the Muslim rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is responsible for the attack.
Shirlyn Macasarte, acting governor of North Cotabato, said her office had been tipped off about the plan by BIFF to free its members as early as the second quarter of last year.
The leader of the attackers, known by the alias Commander Derbie, had links with the BIFF, Macasarte said.
MILF is the biggest Muslim rebel group in the country. Despite signing a peace deal with the government in 2014, intended to deactivate the group, clashes with smaller breakaway groups have continued.
Eight prisoners have since been caught, two have surrendered, while six were killed, according to the office of the president.
The manuhunt operation carried out by the BJMP Special Tactics and Response team, the Special Action Force, and the military is continuing within the vicinity of the jail and surrounding areas.
This is the third such attack on the facility in just a decade.
Additional reporting by Reuters