Armed men have broken into a prison in the southern Philippines, engaging in a shootout with guards, killing one, and helping more than 150 inmates to break out.
More than 100 men attacked the North Cotabato District Jail in the city of Kidapawan early on Wednesday. They engaged in a two-hour firefight with prison guards, during which 154 inmates managed to go to the back of the prison and escape, according to prison warden Peter John Bonggat.
"It’s to rescue their comrades under our custody. It is a rescue operation,” Bonggat said. "The (inmates) took chances because of the volume of fire... They used their bedding, piled them on top of each other to escape.”
Military and police officials have launched an operation to both catch the escapees and arrest the assailants, whom they suspect to belong to the militant group of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). At least six of the escapees have been recaptured and five others killed during the operation.
It was the third and biggest jail break that happened in the prison during the past decade. Back in 2007, more than 40 prisoners escaped, among them three bomb-makers. Another group of bomb-makers escaped the same prison four year later.
Militant groups like the MILF and Abu Sayyaf have engaged in terror attacks and the abduction of tourists in the southern Philippines for decades. The MILF signed a peace agreement with the government in 2014, but it has splintered into several factions and smaller groups that continue to engage in clashes with security forces.