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Fifty-Three Inmates Accounted for in Philippines Jailbreak

Policemen patrol outside the walls of the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan city, Cotabato Province, southern Philippines, after a massive jailbreak early Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017..Credit: AP

Policemen patrol outside the walls of the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan city, Cotabato Province, southern Philippines, after a massive jailbreak early Wednesday, January 4, 2017.Credit: AP

Manila, Philippines: More than 50 of the 158 inmates who escaped in the biggest jailbreak ever in the Philippines have been caught or killed, officials said Friday, with a manhunt underway for the others.

Of the prisoners who escaped after suspected heavily armed Muslim rebels stormed a jail in the country’s south, 43 have been recaptured and eight were killed.

Two others are being treated in hospital for injuries, said Maria Joyce Birrey, the Cotabato provincial police spokeswoman. As well, a jail guard died in the attack on the jail and a village official who allegedly drew a gun when encountered by police was killed.

The breakout from the jail in Kidapawan took place before dawn Wednesday when more than 100 gunmen attacked the facility. Kidapawan city is about 930 kilometres southeast of the capital, Manila, in a restive region when Muslim rebels have been active for generations.

Acting provincial jail warden superintendent Peter John Bongngat Jr earlier said the attackers were thought to have included members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and guerrillas who broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Muslim separatist group in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines that has signed a peace deal with the government.

The two groups have denied involvement.

The jail held 1,511 inmates, including rebels facing murder charges for a series of bombings in the province, officials said. It was the third attack on the provincial jail facility since 2007.