Cablegate: Pnp Storms Prison Ending Asg Takeover

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) Philippine National Police (PNP) anti-terrorist and
SWAT forces stormed the Metro Manila District Jail at 9:15
a.m. (local time) on March 15 after a negotiated agreement
with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) inmates broke down late the
previous evening. PNP National Capital Region Director
Avelino Razon confirms a total of 21 inmates died during the
assault including notorious ASG leaders, Commanders Kosovo,
Robot, and Global. Six PNP members were wounded in the
two-hour fight. As of 11:00 a.m., major assault operations
ended with the prisoners cordoned off on the prison rooftop
for processing back into custody. End Summary.

Negotiations Break Down Over Details Of Deal

2. (SBU) Although GRP representatives and ASG prisoners had
signed a preliminary agreement on March 14 to end the
standoff at the Manila District Prison (ref A), the deal
broke down when the inmates said they wanted to eat first.
"We are demanding that they buy us food," detainee spokesman
Hazdi Daie (alias Ka Lando) told the Associated Press by
telephone. Razon countered with a statement to the press:
"If they will surrender, lay down their arms and come out,
they will get food."

3. (SBU) According to PNP officials, the ASG prisoners
continued to change their demands after this first snag in
the agreement. Although negotiations continued through the
night, PNP Public Information Officer Leopoldo Bataoil told
poloff Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor
Parouk Hussin recommended to the crisis management group
headed by Secretary Angelo Reyes of the Department of
Interior and Local Government (DILG) that negotiations should
only continue until March 15. ASG insistence on airing their
grievances in a primetime broadcast and other last minute
changes to the signed agreement appeared to stretch the
patience of security officials on the scene. Prior to the
assault, police sources told poloff they were worried the
inmates were stalling for time and might further arm
themselves by breaking into the prison's armory.

Ultimatum And Assault End With 21 Dead Inmates
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) At 9:00 a.m. on March 15 DILG Secretary Reyes
issued an ultimatum for the inmates to surrender in 15
minutes. The standoff was broadcast live on local
television. At 9:15 a.m. several light armored vehicles and
SWAT formations, using water cannons, assault rifles, and
"flash-bang" and tear gas grenades, stormed the four-story
prison building controlled by the ASG terrorists.

4. (SBU) As of 11:00 a.m. assault teams had complete control
of the situation, and had cordoned off the estimated 470
inmates on the building's rooftop. Police led manageable
groups of inmates under armed guard for "processing" (i.e.,
strip searches and head counts) back into prison custody.
Canine units assisted in room clearing operations. Razon
confirmed to the media that as many as 21 inmates had been
killed in the assault, including the ASG's Commanders Kosovo,
Robot, and Global. Police recovered eight firearms from the
prisoners. As many as six PNP officers were wounded,
sustaining minor injuries. Reyes stressed separately to the
media that any further attempts to subvert prison security
would be met with similar harsh measures. He noted an
investigation is planned to examine the wider circumstances
of the prison standoff.

5. (SBU) Comment: While the operation to retake the prison
went fairly smoothly and quickly, the fact that inmates were
able to take over underscores the serious failures of the
Philippine prison system. Our GRP sources have confirmed
media reports that Bureau of Jail Management and Penology
(BJMP) officials received intelligence reports of a possible
uprising at least three weeks ago. The crisis represents an
opportunity for the government to institute badly needed
reforms. Whether it will do so, however, remains an open
question. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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