Police say 31 prisoners escape Philippine jail

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AFP) – Thirty-one people, including Muslim guerrillas linked to beheadings, escaped in a jailbreak that left two people dead in the strife-torn southern Philippines on Sunday, officials said.

One guard and an outsider assisting in the escape were killed in a brief gunbattle at the provincial jail on the island of Basilan before dawn, said regional police deputy director Senior Superintendent Rolando Purruganan.

Members of the southern Philippine rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, man a checkpoint in the town of Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province in September (AFP file)

Deputy provincial governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul said that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerillas were likely behind the incident, as one of those freed was a MILF commander linked to the beheadings.

A MILF spokesman could not be contacted for comment on the accusation. If confirmed, this would amount to a violation of a ceasefire between the MILF and the government.

Over 100 outsiders took part in the jailbreak with some climbing ladders to shoot at jail guards while others broke into the jail and forced the cell doors open said Sakalahul.

They broke through a hole in the rear wall of the prison through which they fled into nearby forests, Purruganan added.

Two members of the separatist MILF who beheaded 10 of 14 Philippine Marines in an ambush in Basilan in July 2007 were amongst the escapees, the police official said.

Sakalahul also said that members of the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group that is active in Basilan, were among those who escaped although he could not give details.

The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history and intelligence agencies have linked it to the al-Qaeda network.

It still operates in the forests of Basilan -- last week the group beheaded one of three hostages and then abducted a school official on the island.

Source: AFP

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