JAKARTA - Eight Indonesians held for questioning over their suspected links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been released after police established that they were not associated with the terrorist group in the Middle East.
The eight men were first stopped by immigration officers at Singapore's Woodlands Checkpoint on Tuesday (Jan 10), after a photo of a "shoe bomb" was found in the smartphone of the group's leader, a 37-year-old whom police identified by the initials REH.
Riau Islands police spokesman Saptono Erland said on Friday that the men, aged between 16 and 37, were freed on Thursday after being interrogated for more than 24 hours by officers from Detachment 88 (Densus 88), Indonesia's police counter-terrorism unit.
"The group has returned to Padang, West Sumatra, after we cross-checked with the West Sumatra regional police, who confirmed that all eight men, including the teacher (REH) and his students, were from the Darul Hadith Islamic boarding school in Bukit Tinggi," he said.
Mr Saptono said Densus 88 as well as provincial intelligence officers have also determined that the eight, who were first deported from Singapore to Malaysia and subsequently sent to the Riau Islands in Indonesia on Tuesday, are not associated with ISIS.
"According to our anti-terrorism laws, police have a period of seven days to investigate them and since there are no more leads... they were sent home," he added.
The men, from Bukit Tinggi in West Sumatra, had travelled to Thailand and Malaysia over a period of seven days before heading to Singapore on Tuesday.
Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday confirmed that the men were deported to Malaysia, as one of them was in possession of "images of security concern", including that of a shoe bomb and another of ISIS fighters.
Riau Islands police chief Sam Budigusdian said the group had left Padang on Jan 3 and flew to Kuala Lumpur to preach in Bukit Jalil.
They later travelled overland to mosques in Malacca and Perlis, before making their way to Pattani, a town in southern Thailand on Jan 7, before arriving at Woodlands Checkpoint from Johor at about 1am on Tuesday.
General Sam said Malaysian investigators had concluded that the group of eight did not embrace ISIS ideology and REH had downloaded the illicit images into his smartphone from a WhatsApp group, which he has since left.