By MASIDING NOOR YAHYA
LANAO DEL SUR, September 2 — Muslim women are asked to show their faces before they are allowed to pass through military and police checkpoints in the province as the manhunt for 23 inmates who bolted jail last August 27 continues, a police official said Friday.
Many Muslim women are wearing ‘niqab’ (face covering) as part of their faith. Niqab is introduced in the country by Middle East-based Islamic groups as part of their faith.
Media quoted a police official as saying that the Muslim women have been cooperative in this security measure.
But some Muslim women who preferred not to be named told The New Ranao Star that many are reluctant to take off their veils as they are not used to it but they have to do it .
This is the first time that they are asked to remove their veil.
“So far, the Muslim women have been cooperative as the military and police heightened the security measures in an effort to recapture the escapees,” said the police official who requested anonymity for lacking the authority to speak on the matter.
Photos of the 23 inmates have been posted in all military and police checkpoints in the province, it was learned.
Eight of them have been identified as members of the dreaded “Maute Gang” and are considered the “most wanted criminals”.
Most of the 15 other escapees face murder and frustrated murder charges.
Provincial police director, Sr. Supt. Agustin Tello, recounted to the media that last August 27, two women insisted to get inside the jail compound to deliver food to the inmates.
“When the main door of the jail compound opened, about 20 unidentified fully armed men forcibly gained entry, freed the prisoners and the armed men took the police mobile car as the getaway vehicle,” Tello said.
He said that as of Friday, the 23 remained at large and suspicions were high that the 15 other prisoners had joined the Maute Gang.
Meanwhile, the police official said the military and the police have put up joint checkpoints in various areas in Lanao del Sur where passengers and cargoes of all private and public vehicles undergo intensive scrutiny.
The official said that all Moslem women wearing either the traditional “niqab” or “burqa” have been required to show their faces before they were allowed to pass.
A “niqab” is a piece of cloth that covers the face of Moslem women, showing only the eyes, while the “burqa” is a semi-transparent cloth that covers the face and body, leaving only a mesh for the wearer to see through. (With story from Philippine News Agency)