April 20, 2018

Philippine Militants Linked to Islamic State Free Comrades in Prison Raid

Philippine soldiers guard members of the Maute militant group in Marawi on Aug. 23, 2016. Members of the group attacked the Lanao del Sur jail on Saturday, Aug. 27, freeing eight of their comrades and 15 other inmates. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Muslim extremists supporting the Islamic State group freed eight militants from a southern Philippine prison in a daring attack that also saw 15 other inmates escape, police said Sunday.

About 20 heavily-armed fighters of the Maute militant group stormed the Lanao del Sur provincial jail in Marawi city before nightfall Saturday, disarmed the guards and rescued their eight comrades, police said.

The eight who escaped were arrested a week ago after a homemade bomb was allegedly discovered in van at a security checkpoint. The others who escaped were facing murder or drugs charges, police said.

The Maute group is a new band of armed Muslim radicals, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and use black flags with logos of the Middle East-based extremists.

Based in Butig, in Lanao del Sur province, the militants have attacked army troops, and beheaded a soldier and two kidnapped workers this year. Before being killed, the two workers were made to wear orange shirts similar to beheading victims of the Islamic State group.

A number of Muslim armed groups in the country’s south, including some commanders of the violent Abu Sayyaf, have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State group. The military has tried to play down their action, saying there has been no evidence of an active collaboration between the foreign extremists and Filipino militants who are aiming to prop up their image and secure badly-needed funds amid years of battle setbacks.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued peace deals with other large Muslim rebel groups, but ordered troops to destroy the Abu Sayyaf and other militants.

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