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‘Commander Derby’ behind prison attack?

Jail officials tagged a suspected leader of a dreaded crime group operating in Central Mindanao as behind the attack of the North Cotabato District Jail yesterday in Kidapawan City.

Chief Insp. Xavier Solda, spokesman of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), said they received a report that a certain Commander Derby led more than a hundred armed men who raided the facility at 12:30 a.m.

Derby’s name was also mentioned by jail warden Supt. Peter Bungat.

Solda, however, said the information is still being validated.

Sources said Commander Derby, whose real name is reportedly Omar Sultan, was arrested in Cotabato in 2015 following anti-illegal drugs operations. He escaped from the same detention facility last year.

Sultan is allegedly a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He’s also linked to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) which broke away from the MILF to protest the peace agreement with the Aquino administration.

Supt. Romeo Galgo, spokesman of the Central Mindanao regional police, said following the raid, a two-hour firefight ensured between the attackers and responding government troops.

Some of the inmates took advantage of the firefight by escaping using their beds as ladders to scale the concrete fence, according to Galgo.

Of the 158 inmates who escaped, 14 have been recaptured, said Solda.

The police official said local residents reported that they saw some of the inmates being given firearms by the attackers during their escape.

Meanwhile, elite policemen were sent to North Cotabato and nearby areas to hunt down the attackers and the escapees.

Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos, spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the policemen reinforced the local police and the military which formed tracker teams in areas where the jail escapees and their rescuers possibly hide.

“They are there to clear the area and run after the escaped inmates as well as the attackers,” said Carlos in a press briefing at Camp Crame.

To prevent future attacks, Interior Secretary Mike Sueno said he will ask the PNP to reinforce some of the detention facilities in Mindanao that house high-profile inmates.

Carlos said they are ready to deploy additional policemen in some jail facilities once order is issued.

“We are under one government. We will certainly comply as soon as orders were given by the higher-ups,” said Carlos.