Muslim extremists supporting the Islamic State group freed eight fellow militants in a daring attack that also allowed 15 other inmates to escape from a provincial jail in the southern Philippines, police said Sunday.
About 20 heavily-armed fighters of the Maute militant group stormed the Lanao del Sur provincial jail in Marawi city before nightfall Saturday, disarmed the guards and rescued their eight comrades. The attackers also seized two rifles from guards, police said.
The eight who escaped were arrested a week ago when they were caught with a homemade bomb in van at a security checkpoint.
The others who escaped, apparently to divert the attention of authorities, were facing murder and illegal drugs charges.
The Maute group is a new band of armed Muslim radicals, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and use black flags with logos of the Middle East-based extremists.
Based in Lanao del Sur’s Butig town, the militants have attacked army troops and beheaded a soldier and two kidnapped workers earlier this year. Before being killed, the two workers were made to wear orange shirts similar to beheading victims of the Islamic State group.
A number of Muslim armed groups in the country’s south, including some commanders of the violent Abu Sayyaf, has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State group. The military has tried to play down their action, saying there has been no evidence of an active collaboration between the foreign extremists and Filipino militants who are aiming to prop up their image and secure badly-needed funds amid years of battle setbacks.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who was sworn in in June, has pursued peace deals with two large Muslim rebel groups but has ordered troops to destroy the Abu Sayyaf and other militants.