Suspected Muslim guerrillas stormed a Philippine jail early Friday and blasted a hole through a wall, freeing three alleged bombers and dozens of other inmates, officials said.

At least 25 gunmen carried out the attack on the jail in the southern city of Kidapawan, said deputy warden Redentor Marasigan. He said 49 inmates escaped.

North Cotabato Province Gov. Emmanuel Pinol told The Associated Press that the attackers were suspected Muslim separatist guerrillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But Moro rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu denied his group was involved.

Pinol said army troops and police are searching for the attackers and escaped inmates.

Marasigan said that the gunmen used a grenade to punch a hold in the wall and gain entry into the one-story building.

Four guards tried to hold off the attackers but were quickly overwhelmed and at least one inmate was wounded in the clash, he said.

"My men couldn't do anything against their overwhelming number and firepower," Marasigan said.

Pinol said that among the escapees was a rebel commander who was detained for his alleged role in an October bombing that killed eight people and wounded dozens of others in Makilala town near Kidapawan also escaped.

The rebel group, which has been fighting for self-rule in the southern region of Mindanao, has an estimated 11,000 armed fighters, some of them in rebel strongholds in North Cotabato province.

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