Abu Sayyaf Inmates Take Over Philippine Prison

Voice of America reports that the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group has taken over a prison outside Manilla.

Abu Sayyaf Inmates Take Over Prison Outside of Manila

Muslim detainees at a Philippine prison have killed at least five people in an attempted escape. Members of the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping gang are still in control of the detention facility in suburban Manila while they negotiate a possible surrender. The incident started early Monday morning when an inmate at Camp Bagong Diwa overpowered a prison guard and took his rifle. Fellow inmates and guards joined the fray and a gunfight ensued at the detention facility.


The Abu Sayyaf claims to be fighting for a separate Islamic state in the southern Philippines but has been notorious for kidnappings, bombings and murder. Muslim leaders negotiating with the group say the inmates had complained of long detentions, lack of speedy trials, and no way to have their grievances heard.

Security in the Philippines’ prison system is notoriously lax and its poorly paid staff vulnerable to pay-offs. Last year, about 50 prisoners, including Abu Sayyaf members, escaped on the southern island of Basilan. In 2003, an Indonesian terror suspect walked out of his cell in Manila’s police headquarters – embarrassing President Gloria Arroyo in her anti-terror campaign.

Given what happened last Friday in Atlanta, we know that poorly trained staff and lax security are not uncommon in the United States, either.

Update (0930): AFP reports that the seige may be ending.

Breakthrough in prison siege (The Australian)

NEGOTIATORS last night made a breakthrough in the 12-hour standoff with al-Qa’ida-linked militants who staged a bloody escape attempt from a Philippines prison that left six people dead. Hundreds of snipers and police special forces units had surrounded a group of armed militants on an upstairs floor of the Camp Bagong Diwa jail. The militants had earlier overpowered prison guards and seized three of their guns during a routine early-morning count of the 435 prison inmates, who include 129 members of the al-Qa’ida-linked Abu Sayyaf group facing trial for kidnapping and murder.

The ensuing shoot-out died down by mid-morning as negotiators using loudspeakers started trying to persuade the prisoners to surrender. The negotiators won provisional agreement for the Abu Sayyaf rebels to end the standoff in exchange for security guarantees, the right to a speedy trial, access to the press to air their case and the right to have their own lawyers. “It’s a win-win solution,” national police spokesman Leopoldo Bataoil told reporters.

But late last night however, the surrender had yet to begin.

One hopes these “concessions” are merely a ploy to arrest or shoot the leaders of this escapade. Otherwise, by making murdering guards a fast track to getting better treatment in the prison, these officials have incentivized further prison riots.

Update (1138): The AP reports Deal Collapses in Filipino Inmate Standoff

A group of Muslim-extremist inmates accused of carrying out some of the Philippines’ worst terrorist attacks agreed to surrender Monday after a botched jailbreak left at least five people dead, but the deal later broke down when the inmates demanded dinner first, authorities said. The demand for food prompted civilian negotiators to leave in frustration. They said they planned to return Tuesday.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.