KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines, Jan. 5 (UPI) — A Philippines Bureau of Jail Management and Penology official said 21 inmates who escaped from Kidapawan City’s North Cotabato District Jail have been recaptured.
“The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are working closely to capture the escapees. Hence, we appeal for calm and sobriety,” a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said in a statement on Thursday.
Up to 158 inmates escaped after more than 100 armed men, who are suspected to be Muslim rebels, attacked the facility about 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, Philippines Bureau of Jail Management and Penology spokesman Xavier Solda said.
One jail officer was killed in the firefight that lasted for two hours. The inmates housed in the dilapidated, mostly open-air facility escaped through the back portion of the jail as the firefight occurred.
The group that took part in the attack seemed to be members of breakaway faction Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a group that sought peace with the government, acting Provincial Jail Warden Superintendent Peter Bungat said.
The breakaway faction is known as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, The Philippine Star reported.
“It was not a jailbreak. It was a planned rescue of certain detainees. It’s to rescue their comrades under our custody. It is a rescue operation,” Bungat said.
The escapees “are mostly our Muslim brothers and most of them are [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] members,” Bungat added. “But the others likely just went along with the jailbreak. “