Islamists belonging to the Maute extremist group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamist State (Isis), have staged a mass jailbreak in the Philippines. Manila has dispatched the army to the southern Philippines as part of a manhunt to recapture the extremists.
As many as 50 heavily-armed men stormed the prison in Marawi City Jail freeing about 28 inmates on Saturday (27 August). Three women inmates were among the freed Islamists. The attack has come at a time when the country's President Rodrigo Duterte is spearheading an aggressive anti-crime campaign.
Some of the inmates were put in the jail just days before the attack after they were caught hauling arms and ammunition. A later interrogation revealed they were plotting a major attack in the region against the civilian population.
"[In] our pursuit now [we have] raised our alert level in all areas. [The] identification of those who escaped with their perpetrators to justice is taking their colleagues are already distribute it, already – disseminate that," Brigadier General Restituto Padilla was cited as saying.
Photographs of the escaped prisoners have been distributed via several channels to all law enforcement agencies. There were no casualties when the prison was attacked as the guards did not put up a fight with the armed assailants, suspected to be members of the Khilafah Islamiya Movement.
"Heavily armed men wielding RPGs, Soviet-made AK 47, M16 rifles and other high-powered weapon stormed Lanao Sur Provincial Jail in Marawi City Saturday afternoon and freed eight recently arrested members of an alleged local terror group. Clearly, this is a rescue operation aimed at freeing their members," said a police statement.
The Maute group is made of several gangs of Islamist extremists in the southern part of Philippines, a Catholic-majority nation. In the past, the organisation has been blamed not just for attacks on security forces but also for abduction and beheadings. The Maute group, along with another jihadist cluster Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, had pledged allegiance to the IS in their fight against the Philippine government.