A mayor says 16 inmates have broken free from a jail in the southern Philippines by cutting the iron bars of their cell and using blankets to lower themselves into a nearby river.

Cotabato Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. says one inmate was recaptured on Thursday following the midnight escape from the overcrowded jail in the city centre.

It holds about 300 inmates facing charges of murder, drug trafficking and weapons possession.

Dozens of jailbreaks blamed on lax security and poor prison conditions take place every year, many including terrorist suspects and communist and Muslim rebels.

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