Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gunmen raid Basilan prison, rescue Sayyaf terrorists

Police and military heightened security in Basilan province on Sunday, December 13, 2009 after gunmen stormed the provincial jail in the capital city of Isabela and freed 31 mostly Abu Sayyaf militants and Moro rebels. Two people were killed in the attack. (Mindanao Examiner Photo).

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 13, 2009) – More than 100 gunmen stormed before dawn Sunday the Basilan provincial jail in the southern Philippines and freed at least 31 hardened criminals, including suspected Abu Sayyaf militants, officials said.

The daring raid on the jail located in the capital city of Isabela left two people dead, the deputy provincial governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul said.

“There is a pursuit operation to get back the escapees. We still don’t know how the gunmen were able to spring out the prisoners. There is an on going investigation,” he told reporters. “I was told that there were more than 100 raiders who came in several vehicles and stormed the jail.”

He said one jail guard and a gunman were killed in an ensuing firefight.

Sakalahul said the gunmen came in several vehicles and raided the jail at around 1.45 a.m. in the village of Sumagdang. “More than half of the inmates in the jail – many of them Abu Sayyaf - had escaped,” he said.

He said many of those who escaped were murderers and suspected Abu Sayyaf militants, whose group is tied to al-Qaeda and behind the spate of terrorism in the southern Philippines.

At least 3 Abu Sayyaf prisoners – tagged as behind the beheading of 10 soldiers in Basilan - escaped in December 2008 from the provincial jail after overpowering their guards.

And in July 2007, at least 16 hardened criminals, including four Abu Sayyaf militants, escaped from the prison after destroying the windows of their cell.

In April 2004, at least 53 of the more than 130 prisoners at the provincial jail, including 19 Abu Sayyaf members, also escaped using a smuggled .45-caliber pistol which they used in overpowering the guards. (With a report from Richard Falcatan)

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