More than 50 inmates, including many suspected members of a Muslim extremist group, used a smuggled pistol to escape from a southern Philippine prison on Saturday. Police said they killed at least nine inmates.

Provincial spokesman Christopher Puno said 53 of 137 inmates at the Basilan Provincial Jail (search), including many members of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf (search) group, escaped.

Eight inmates were recaptured, said Senior Inspector William Gadayan, police chief of Isabela city, the capital of Basilan. He said three guards were injured in the breakout, one seriously.

The escape came just two days after soldiers outside Isabela killed six alleged Abu Sayyaf members, including Hamsiraji Sali (search), one of five guerrilla leaders wanted by Washington in the deaths of two American hostages.

Gadayan said the escape may have been in retaliation for Sali's death and an effort by the Abu Sayyaf to regroup.

Quoting guards, Puno said an inmate's wife smuggled in a .45-caliber pistol, which the inmates used to overpower the guards. They also seized a shotgun and two M-16 rifles equipped with grenade launchers from the guards, he said.

At least two of those killed and three who were recaptured were suspected Abu Sayyaf members, Puno said.

One of them, Janati Janatail, apprehended by government militiamen in the village Sumagdang outside Isabel, told police one of the leaders of the jailbreak pointed a shotgun at him and several others, warning they would be killed if they did not join the escape.

The spokesman for the military's Southern Command, Lt. Col. Renoir Pascua, said troops in Basilan, an island off the southern port city of Zamboanga, were ordered to help recapture the escaped convicts.

It was not clear how many of the escapees were Abu Sayyaf members. The group is notorious for ransom kidnappings in which some hostages have been beheaded.