Escape of 23 inmates in Lanao Del Sur places Northern Mindanao police on heightened alert

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan De Oro City — The police regional command in Northern Mindanao on Monday ordered a heightened intelligence operations in the region after 23 inmates in Lanao Del Sur bolted jail Saturday.

Chief Supt. Noel Constantino, police regional director in Northern Mindanao, said that eight of the prisoners were members of the “Maute Group,” a local terrorist group that pledged allegiance to international terror organization ISIS.

He said that most of the 15 other inmates who bolted the Lanao Del Sur provincial jail were facing murder charges and were considered equally dangerous to remain at large.

“The escapees pose serious threat to public safety and must be prevented from sowing further terror,” Constantino said in a statement released to the local media here.

He said that he has instructed the police on the ground to conduct checkpoint to constrict the possible entry of the “Maute group” in Northern Mindanao.

About 50 heavily armed men stormed the loosely guarded Lanao Del Sur provincial jail in Marawi City about 6 p.m. last Saturday, seized a provincial jail guard and herded the 23 prisoners to freedom.

The armed men seized one M16 rifle, one M14 assault rifle, and the patrol car assigned at the Lanao Del Sur Provincial Jail, the police report said.

It added that armed men picked the eight members of the Maute Group who were then led to a waiting motorboat in Lake Lanao that headed to an unknown direction.

The 15 other prisoners and the lone jail guard identified as Modaser Manwang were left in the village of Caloocan in Marawi City, the police said.

Constantino said that the eight members of the Maute Group were earlier intercepted in a military checkpoint in Lumbanayague in Lanao Del Sur on board a vehicle loaded with ammunition, improvised explosive device and high powered firearms, and hauled to jail.

The police report reaching here alleged that the group was on a mission to assault the Army camp in Marawi City and on a bombing mission in key cities in Northern Mindanao, including Cagayan De Oro City.

Constantino has reminded the public to be extra vigilant as he sought the people to rally behind the PNP and the military in the fight against all forms of terror attacks.

“Rest assured the police in Northern Mindanao is doing its best in coordination with the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and other government agencies to neutralize this terror group in the region,” he said. Jigger Jerusalem/PNA/