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Armed men free 158 detainees from North Cotabato jail

The attack on the jail is the third in the last 10 years. Google Earth
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines -- Armed men stormed the North Cotabato provincial jail here at midnight Tuesday and set free 158 detainees after an hour-long firefight with guards, the third in just a decade.
Superintendent Peter Bungat, provincial jail warden, said the attack began with a power outage that plunged the facility into darkness, followed by heavy gunfire aimed at the buildings inside its fenced compound.
Bungat said one of his subordinates, Jail Officer 1 Hexel Rey Desibo, was killed in the ensuing encounter with the gunmen who attacked from the rear of the jail compound.
“It was not a jailbreak. It was a planned rescue of certain detainees,” he said.
An inmate initially identified only as Jarao was wounded in the crossfire. He was immediately rushed to a hospital by responding barangay officials and policemen.
The jail, also known as the Cotabato District Jail, is located inside the provincial capitol compound in Barangay Amas in Kidapawan City, a short distance from the provincial police office.

BIFF: It wasn't us

Military intelligence sources told The STAR there are indications that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters pulled off the jail raid.
Three of several bombing suspects detained in the facility are members of the group.
Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the outlawed BIFF, denied they were responsible for the attack.
He told Catholic station dxMS, the leading broadcast outfit in Cotabato City, that not a single BIFF member was involved
Responding community volunteer watchmen led by Alexander Austria, chairperson of Barangay Amas, arrested an escapee wandering in an open field near the provincial capitol. He was reportedly disoriented and seemed to have been scared by the bursts of gunfire and explosions.
“This inmate is an ethnic Maguindanaon from Kabacan municipality (in North Cotabato), being prosecuted for a drug offense. We turned him over to the police,” he said.

Police warned of planned attack

Austria said the local police earlier warned of a plan by an armed group to spring high-profile inmates from the provincial jail.
“We alerted the residents of Barangay Amas because that’s the most we can do. Our barangay volunteer security group is not armed,” Austria said.
More than a dozen detainees in the facility were arrested in a series of anti-narcotics operation in late 2015 in Midsayap town in the first district of North Cotabato.
The suspects are followers of notorious drug traffickers Renz Tukuran and Mokz Masgal, who fled Midsayap one as police and soldiers raided their hideouts to serve them warrants for their arrest.
Tukuran and Masgal are also both former guerilla commanders who kept arsenals of military-grade weapons, including M-60 machine guns and shoulder-fire grenade launchers.
Many of their firearms were seized by policemen and soldiers who raided their hideouts in separate operations from between late October to early December 2015.
Bungat said the gunmen who attacked the jail apparently targeted two cells where high-profile detainees were clamped down.
Detainees informed reporters that the gunmen, some of them heard speaking to each other in the Maguindanaon dialect, also set free other inmates in nearby cells.

Police guard the entrance to the provincial capitol in Kidapawan City, where the jail is located. Courtesy of Abner Francisco/Facebook
Bungat said they have been receiving persistent feedback since dawn Wednesday purporting that the group is led by the notorious Commander Derby, wanted for heinous offenses, including drug trafficking, extortion and armed robbery.
More than 40 inmates escaped when guerillas rescued three foreign-trained bomb makers from the facility around 10 years ago. The three had been detained in connection with deadly bomb attacks in the province.
The incident was followed by another attack four years later, where several inmates, five of them being prosecuted for bomb attacks, also escaped.
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