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Thursday 27 April 2017

Six dead as gunmen storm Philippines jail and help 158 inmates escape

Policemen patrol outside the walls of the North Cotabato District Jail after a massive jailbreak (AP Photo)
Policemen patrol outside the walls of the North Cotabato District Jail after a massive jailbreak (AP Photo)

Nearly 160 inmates escaped after suspected Muslim rebels attacked a jail in the southern Philippines, and at least six people were shot dead as pursuing government forces traded fire with gunmen.

Acting Provincial Jail Warden Superintendent Peter John Bongngat said dozens of gunmen took part in the attack on the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan before dawn on Wednesday.

He said a guard was killed and an inmate was wounded in an initial gunfight during the assault on the prison, which is about 580 miles from the capital Manila.

He said gunfire continued for hours after the attack as army troops and police, some in armoured tanks, hunted through the surrounding forests for the 158 escaped inmates and the gunmen who freed them.

He said the heavily armed attackers were suspected to include members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and guerrillas who broke away from the main Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has signed a peace deal with the government.

Of the six killed in the shoot-out, at least five were escapees, while another six were recaptured, officials said.

The jail held more than 1,500 inmates, including Bangsamoro members facing murder charges for a series of bombings in the province. It was the third attack on the prison since 2007.

Local village leader Alexander Austria told The Associated Press that he and his men captured one of the men.

He said the exchanges of gunfire woke his village, which was several miles from the prison, and he immediately posted guards because of worries the attackers and escaped inmates could enter the village.

"We heard the gunfire and we sprang into action to guard our village," he said. "We were afraid the escapees could try to enter our village to hide or take hostages."

AP

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