Philippine police say 11 detainees including the leader of a notorious bandit group have escaped from a jail by cutting through iron grills with a smuggled hacksaw.

The fugitives include Datukan Samad, a high-profile suspect facing kidnapping and murder charges in the southern Philippines. He has been linked to Muslim rebels.

Mr Samad was transferred to the Maguindanao Provincial Jail in Cotabato city following a failed attempt to spring him from another jail in February that left three people dead, including a Red Cross driver.

Cotabato police chief Danny Reyes says the fugitives sawed through iron bars in the jail’s bathroom and escaped early Tuesday. A manhunt is under way.

The escape happened a day after President Benigno Aquino III lauded jail authorities for tightening notoriously lax security in prisons.

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