Witnesses to Lanao del Sur prisonbreak balking
(Philstar.com) - August 29, 2016 - 2:15pm

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Witnesses to Saturday's daring escape of eight Islamic militants from the Lanao del Sur provincial jail are reluctant to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.

Senior members of the Lanao del Sur provincial police said prospective witnesses are apprehensive of repercussions.

"No one is willing to come out in the open to help build an airtight case against the gunmen behind that very daring attack on the provincial jail," said a member of the Lanao del Sur inter-agency provincial peace and order council.

Local officials on Monday told The STAR the gunmen who sprung their eight companions from jail belong to the Maute terror group, feared for its brutality on people suspected of spying on their activities for the police and military.

READ: Inmates freed as terror group raids Lanao del Sur jail

The Maute group, led by relatives Omar and Abdullah Maute, boasts of its allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, and displays the black ISIS flag when moving from one hinterland to another in Lanao del Sur.

Before their escape, the inmates were arrested and detained for than a week for possession of improvised explosive devices over the weekend.

Five of the eight men freed by their companions during the jail raid were identified as Mohammad Mulok, Jamil Amirul, Abdul Jabbar Macabading, and Hassim Balauag—all ethnic Maranaws.

The suspects, armed with AK-47 Kalashnikovs and M-16 and M16 assault rifles, also set free 24 other unaffiliated inmates detained on drug charges and other heinous offenses.

They stormed the jail at dusk Saturday, disarmed guards, freed the detainees from their cells and took their eight companions, three of them women, to a barangay near Lake Lanao and escaped using watercrafts berthed nearby.

The Lanao del Sur provincial jail in Marawi City is only about a kilometer away from the headquarters of the Army's 103rd Brigade.

Members of the Maute group had killed a soldier and wounded two others in an ambush just few meters away from the same military base about three months ago.

The attackers even detonated a powerful improvised explosive device along the fence at one side of the Army camp as they fled the scene.

"People who witnessed these attacks by the Maute group are not willing to help the police prosecute the culprits for fear of their lives," said a city official, who asked not to be identified for security reasons.

The Maute group first emerged in Butig town in the first district of Lanao del Sur in late 2015.

The group preaches absolute intolerance for non-Muslims and espouses the creation of a puritan Islamic community in Mindanao.

Members of the group had earlier beheaded two Visayan sawmill workers in one of the barangays in Butig on mere suspicions there were spying for the military.

"The military and police advisers of President Duterte should not ignore this group. It may be a small group but it has followers and most of them are radical Moro adolescents," said a member of a municipal council in a town in the second district of Lanao del Sur.

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