CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 27 August) — Heavily armed members of the Maute terror group stormed the Lanao del Sur provincial jail in Marawi City late Saturday afternoon and freed all eight of their companions who were arrested by the Army and police last Monday while some 20 other prisoners escaped, Chief Supt. Agripino Javier regional police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said.
In his report to higher headquarters, Javier said an estimated 50 men equipped with high-powered firearms stormed the jail at around 5:45 p.m. Saturday, leading to the escape of an estimated 28, including the eight alleged members of the Maute group, three of them women.
The group also seized two weapons from the jail personnel — an M-16 and an M-14, and one Mitsubishi mobile car.
JO3 Modasir Manwang was also seized but released by the suspects at Barangay Caloocan in Marawi City. “The other 20 prisoners were also released at the said barangay,” the report said.
The report said the suspects and the eight alleged members of the Maute group “escaped through motorized boat and fled to unknown direction.”
A press statement from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) in Region 10 said the armed men were led by Abdullah Maute.
It said all intelligence units have been directed to “enhance monitoring” and that photographs and plate numbers of their getaway vehicles have been distributed to police checkpoints in the region.
Last Monday afternoon (August 22) , Army troops and policemen intercepted a Tamaraw FX van allegedly carrying explosives in Barangay Nanagun, Lumbayanague, Lanao del Sur.
Maj. Felimon Tan, spokesperson of the Armed Forces Western Command said the soldiers arrested eight persons in the van, among them three women.
Tan said the troops found an improvised explosive device (IED) made of an 81-mm mortar attached to two other pipe bombs and triggering devices inside the Tamaraw vehicle.
Tan said they believed the suspects intended to target either the camp of Army 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi City; Iligan City or Cagayan de Oro, which is celebrating its fiesta on August 28.
The military identified those arrested as Hashim Balawag Maute, Abdul Jabbar Tominaman Macabading, Jamil Batoa
Amerul, Muhammad Sianodin Mulok and Omar Khalil.
The arrested women were identified as Hafidah Romato Maute, Nasifa Pandug and Norhanna Balawag Maute.
Tan said the group was on the way to Marawi City from Butig town in Lanao del Sur when troops, acting on intelligence report, blocked them at the checkpoint in Barangay Nanagun.
“The fast reaction of troops and the information of concerned citizens was the key for thwarting a terror attack intended to kill innocent people in populated target areas. IEDs do not select its victims, children, Christians or Muslims, young and old, lahat papatayin niyan and in a wide scale kaya napakalaking bagay na hindi natuloy ito dahil na din sa cooperation ng taong bayan at responde ng sundalo at pulis,” Tan said in a statement.
The Maute group pledged allegiance to the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) banner and is responsible for several attacks on Army detachments in Lanao del Sur.
In April, the group beheaded two lumberyard workers they earlier took captive, after the ransom they demanded was not paid. (Froilan Gallardo with a report from Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)