Philippines jailbreak: MILF commander Satar Mandalongdong led daring midnight operation?

Suspected Muslim rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front attacked a the southern Philippine prison and freed 158 inmates in a daring attack on Wednesday.

About 100 armed men, surrounded the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan city in the restive Mindanao region shortly after midnight. They opened fire at guards and stormed the prison, which had around 1,511 inmates.

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Philippine police said the attackers’ goal was to free their comrades in custody. “It’s to rescue their comrades under our custody. It is a rescue operation,” jail warden Peter John Bonggat said, according to local ABS-CBN television.

Jail officials could not confirm if all the escaped prisoners belonged to the Moro militant factions. Bonggat, however, confirmed that many Muslim rebel leaders were housed in the Kidapawan jail, 950 kilometres away from capital Manila.

“We have many Muslim personalities (in the jail) that are members of various organised, syndicated groups,” Bonggat told AFP.

Local officials said as many as six attackers and one prison guard were killed in cross-firing. “When the attack came, according to the report of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, it was a two-hour firefight” Philippine National Police Spokesperson Dionardo Carlos said.

“The jail guards were trying to stop the attackers and then our police responded … Unfortunately, because of the commotion, some inmates escaped using a wooden ladder that they stuck to the wall at the back portion of the jail,” he said at a press conference.

No group has claimed the attack, but the Philippine officials believe MILF is behind the prison attack. Officials suggested that MILF commander Satar Mandalondong is the kingpin behind the jailbreak, Al Jazeera reported, citing sources.

MILF, which demands autonomy for the Moro Muslim people of the southern Philippines, did not claim responsibility for the attack.

The Philippines has been plagued by an Islamic insurgency propelled by militant organizations like the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that operate in the Sulu archipelago and the Mindanao island.

The government signed a peace treaty with the MILF in March 2014, but various splinter groups including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that aim to create an Isis-style caliphate in the south of the county have engaged the military in pitched battles.

First impressions aside on this story, this is not the MILF rank and file insurgents:

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