Sayyaf rebel, 7 others bolt jail

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Eight prisoners, including notorious Abu Sayyaf rebel Said Usman, escaped on Tuesday dawn from the Basilan provincial jail.

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Officials claimed that the escape was only discovered in the morning after the jail guards who conducted a regular head count in Isabela City, Basilan noticed the missing prisoners.

It appeared that the escapees destroyed the ceiling before daybreak and jumped off the prison walls.

Notorious rebel Said Usman, whose Abu Sayyaf group is operating in the restive island- province just a few nautical miles south of Zamboanga province, is among those who escaped.

Last week, the jail officers requested the national directorate to have Usman and several other rebels transferred to a detention facility in Metro Manila, which are considered more secure than the one in Basilan. The officers feared that they might not be able to defend the local jail if attacked by the rebel group, citing rumors of a plan to rescue Usman and his companions from prison.

The prison guards also discovered a handgun and a grenade hidden inside a stove that was brought by some of Usman’s lady visitors.

Among those who escaped were Akmad Arasani, Obet de la Cruz, Serham Akalum, Benhar Ibrahim, Oliver Tinguha, Mumar Jajuli and Arajan Dala.

It was not immediately known why the prison guards failed to prevent or detect the daring escape, but it was not the first time that a prisoner was able to bolt the jail facility. The security at the Basilan jail has been a perennial problem due to the lack of government support and poor equipment.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police Office in Isabela City has launched a manhunt operation against the eight escapees, especially against Usman who was convicted for five counts of kidnappings.

The pursuing policemen are joined by some guards.

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