Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels celebrate the signing of the peace agreement during a rally at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town, in southern island of Mindanao, March 27, 2014.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels celebrate the signing of the peace agreement during a rally at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town, in southern island of Mindanao, March 27, 2014.

MANILA - Armed men with links to Muslim rebels stormed a prison early Wednesday in the southern Philippines, killing a guard and freeing more than 150 inmates, police said.

The Southeast Asian nation has for decades been plagued by insurgencies by Muslim rebels in its southern islands, with President Rodrigo Duterte seeking to promote broad peace in the predominantly Catholic country.

The gunmen opened fire on guards at the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan city around 1:00 a.m. (1700 GMT), prison warden Peter Bongat told a local radio station.

Of the jail's 1,511 inmates, 158 escaped and four were recaptured, he said.

"We have a manhunt operation," Bongat said.

The rebel commander belonged to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) based on initial information, Bongat said.

In 2014, the government signed a peace deal with the MILF, the biggest Muslim rebel group, but clashes still occur with smaller groups.