Armed men free inmates, bombing suspects from Kidapawan jail

The attackers, clad in black fatigue uniforms, launched M-203 grenades and shot jail guards detailed at the entrance using M-16 armalite rifles, according to a report by Provincial Jail Warden Noli Piñol

The provincial police command quoted a reports from the intelligence community that the attack was led by the Special Operations Group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which was refuted by MILF political affairs chief Ghadzali Jaafar in a radio interview.

Two of the jail officers, identified as Joy Bustamante and Reynaldo Aquino were wounded during the attack at the North Cotabato Provincial Jail in Amas Complex here. Police estimated that about 30 fully-armed men attacked the jail at around 1:05 am this morning.

None of the inmates was injured

Three of those who escaped or were rescued by the attackers faced multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder in connection with the October 2003 bombing here. They were identified as Kaer Mundos, Datu Ali Sultan, and Tukan Guindo. The three were tagged as members of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) whose operations include North Cotabato and Maguindanao, according to reports

The companions of the three alleged JI members, Teng Madrudin, and Faisal Mama, both detained on kidnapping charges, and Mohammad Nor Hassan, who is facing a drug smuggling case, were also taken by the attackers

Otin Mariano, alias Siris, suspected to be the Commander Kule Mamagong that led the bomb attacks in central Mindanao in October 2006, refused to run away, according to Assistant Jail Warden Red Marasigan

The attack came two months after gunmen who disguised themselves as soldiers, also rescued a suspected crude bomb expert maker at the Maguindanao provincial jail in Cotabato City. The suspects raked the concrete jail building with high-powered firearms and took the Moro inmate using a getaway vehicle.

In a text message, Von Al Haq, chairman of the MILF's Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), said there was no attack as what happened at the Kidapawan jail that was sanctioned by their organization.   "So far, walang programa ang MILF na magpatakas ng mga inmates," he said.

The attackers engaged the jail guards in a 20-minute firefight, blew up a portion of the wall at the back, destroyed the padlocks of at least six prison cells, and rescued their 'comrades'.

Marasigan said the guards were outnumbered that time. There were only four jail guards assigned during the night shift

North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Piñol has already ordered a massive manhunt and pursuit operation against those who “attacked, rescued, and set free" 48 inmates at the provincial jail. He also assured cash rewards to those who could bring back inmates escaped from the jail, “dead or alive.” (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)