‘Terror suspects fled from Lanao Sur jail in 10 minutes’
MARAWI CITY – Gone in 10 minutes.
Prison guards at the Lanao del Sur provincial jail here said it took only 10 minutes for armed men to free 23 inmates, eight of whom were tagged as members of a local terror group.
The jail’s officer of the day, Johary Panaarag, in his written report said the raid started when two women arrived, claiming they were bringing food to inmates, at around 5 p.m. Saturday.
When the women were allowed inside the jail gates, at least 50 armed men suddenly showed up.
The armed men then ordered the jail guards to lie on the ground as they walked to the cells some 50 meters away.
“We were not able to fight back. Some of us were handcuffed. They threatened to kill us if we resisted,” prison guard Tongco Abdullah told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Abdullah said the suspects were brandishing high-powered firearms, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Some of the 12 prison guards on duty during the raid were armed with M16 Armalite rifles.
Then, the suspects looked for their target– eight (five men and three women) suspected members of the Maute group. They then destroyed the cell’s padlocks and freed the inmates.
A prisoner, who asked not to be named, said the jail guards did not show resistance.
Along with the eight jailed members of the Maute group, 15 other inmates escaped.
But one inmate, Blah Masorong, said he decided not to escape from prison even if he had the chance.
“I did not join them because I am due for release,” Masorong told the Inquirer.
The armed men, along with the escapees and a prison guard they held hostage, moved toward Barangay Calocan near Lake Lanao onboard four get-away vehicles, including a truck owned by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). There, they released the unidentified prison guard. The armed men then boarded motorboats and escaped, while the other prisoners fled on foot.
The eight prisoners are believed to be members of the Maute group, a local terrorist cell that has been styling itself as an ISIS affiliate. They were arrested at a military checkpoint in Lumbayanague town in Lanao del Sur on August 22.
The military said it confiscated from the eight suspects a firearm, a grenade, an 81mm mortar and bomb-making components.
On July 29, government soldiers also intercepted a vehicle loaded with improvised explosive devices and other bomb-making components. Based on the vehicle’s registration, it was owned by a member of the Maute family – whose other members were being hunted down because of involvement in various atrocities in Lanao del Sur, including the beheading of two sawmill workers in April in Butig town.
The group being led by Maute family members, which had reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was also suspected of staging the July 27 attack on the headquarters of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi.
In Cagayan de Oro City, the regional police command in Northern Mindanao has ordered all police units to strengthen and intensify its intelligence monitoring following the escape of the 23 inmates.
“These escapees pose serious threat to public safety and must be prevented from sowing further terror,” said Chief Supt. Noel Constantino, regional police chief, said in a statement Sunday.
Constantino has instructed police on the ground to conduct checkpoints to constrict entry of terror groups in Northern Mindanao.
Constantino has reminded the public to be extra vigilant. (With a report from Jigger J. Jerusalem, Inquirer Mindanao) SFM
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