Philippine Jailbreak Frees More Than 150 Inmates, Prompting Manhunt

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MANILA — A manhunt was underway Wednesday for more than 150 inmates who escaped from a jail in the southern Philippines after it came under attack by gunmen overnight.

One guard was killed and another wounded in the assault on a jail in Kidapawan City on the violence-plagued southern island of Mindanao, according to Peter Bungat, the warden. The gunmen were thought to be from a bandit group that had broken away from a Muslim rebel organization, Mr. Bungat told a radio station on Mindanao, which is home to a decades-old insurgency.

Five of the 158 inmates who escaped from the facility, the North Cotabato District Jail, were later killed in a shootout with pursuing officers, Senior Inspector Xavier Solda, a spokesman for the Philippine Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, told a radio station in Manila.

Mr. Bungat said the attack began in the early hours of Wednesday, when the jail’s power supply was cut. Armed men then approached from behind the compound and began firing. “It was well planned,” Mr. Bungat said.

He said it was unclear whether any “high profile” inmates were among the escapees. At least a dozen were involved in drug trafficking, according to officials from the jail management bureau.

Mr. Bungat said the assault was believed to have been led by a bandit known as Commander Derbie, who once led a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Philippines’ largest rebel group. Commander Derbie is widely believed to have broken away from that organization, which has signed a peace deal with the government.

Philippine security officials have said that Commander Derbie joined a breakaway group called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. A spokesman for that group, Abu Misry, denied any involvement in the jailbreak.

Three inmates who had been charged with possessing drugs and explosives escaped from the North Cotabato District Jail last August. Eight years ago, three inmates accused of carrying out a bombing also escaped from the jail.

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