PETALING JAYA: Authorities in the Philippines managed to intercept and prevent seven suspected members of the Maute terrorist group with links to the Islamic State (IS) from boarding a plane to Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
According to the Manila-based Business World Online, immigration officials stopped them before they could board the Cebu Pacific flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the capital.
It quoted Erickson H Balmes, undersecretary of the Philippines’ Department of Justice, as saying that four of the men would be handed over to the police and the country’s National Bureau of Investigation.
Citing reports from the immigration bureau, he said the four were identified as Alnizar Palawan Maute, Abdulrahman Maute, Yasser Dumaraya Maute and Ashary Palawan Maute.
He was quoted as saying that further investigations and verification of their identities would be conducted.
The Business World Online report also cited him as saying that the other three passengers were released “after determining that there is no derogatory record against their name”.
They were listed as Mawiyag Ibrahim Cota, Acmali A Mawiyag and Abdulcahar Racman Maute.
The Maute group launched deadly attacks on Marawi on the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao beginning on May 23, in an attempt to take over the city and make it an Islamist stronghold.
The violent incursion with fatal shootings and bombings caused tens of thousands of residents to join an exodus from the city.
The Philippine army has since claimed victory over the armed intruders although there have been reports that hundreds of the Islamist militiamen are still holed up in several buildings in the city.
The group had reportedly seen sizeable participation by individuals from Malaysia and Indonesia who joined them in taking arms to set up an Islamist regional base.
The Maute radical outfit, comprising former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and foreign fighters, has pledged allegiance to the IS terror movement which has of late experienced significant losses in Syria and Iraq.
It was reported that Malaysia has been identified by IS supporters as part of its “East Asia Wilayah” or territory, along with Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, southern Thailand, Myanmar and Japan.
Malaysian police have arrested more than a hundred suspected IS militants and supporters over the past few years.
In January, Special Branch counter-terrorism division principal assistant director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay was quoted as saying that 122 suspects had been charged and that police had secured 62 convictions.
He also said 38 suspected militants or supporters had been detained under the Prevention of Crime Act and 18 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He said police were also aware of 60 Malaysians fighting in Syria for Islamic groups.
In February, police arrested six foreigners and one Malaysian suspected of involvement with Islamic terrorist groups.
A grenade attack on a food and beverage outlet in Puchong in June last year wounded eight people, with the IS claiming responsibility for it. It was the first IS attack on Malaysian soil.