KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Seven Malaysia-bound Filipinos who were detained at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport on suspicion of having terrorist links have been cleared by the authorities.
The red flag was raised after five members of the group were found to have the surname Maute, a name associated with the terrorist group in the southern Philippine city of Marawi founded by Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute. The militant group, which has links with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria extremist group, seized Marawi on May 23 and continues to resist daily assaults from the military.
Intelligence sources said the passengers, identified as Ashary Maute, Yasser Maute, Abdulrahman Maute, Al Nizar Maute, Abdulcahar Maute, Acmali Mawiyag and Mawiyag Cota, were headed back to a madrasah (Islamic religious school) in greater Kuala Lumpur on Monday (July 10) after spending the Hari Raya festival in the Philippines.
"Investigations indicate they have no links to Maute or any other terrorist groups," the source told The Star on Thursday.
It is learnt that Mawiyag, Acmali and Abdulcahar were the first three to be released while Yasser, Ashary and Al Nizar were brought to a detention centre.
"Abdulrahman was handed over to Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation based on an arrest warrant that linked him with the name Abdulrahman Romato Maute, also known as Damam.
"However, after further checks, they discovered that all of those detained were 'distant relatives' of the Maute group, and they were not involved with the group or the Marawi incident," the source said.
It is understood that the madrasah in question has more than 400 international students, including those from the Philippines.
Further checks into the madrasah reveal that it has been approved by Malaysia's Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department, which has instructed the school to adhere to strict guidelines, including not teaching modules that threaten national security.
"Investigations have not uncovered any wrongdoing on the part of the school," a source said.
It was reported by a Filipino newspaper that seven passengers were held at the airport as they were about to board Flight 5J 499 operated by Cebu Pacific.