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7 Malaysia-bound passengers held at NAIA for suspected links with Maute group

Airport officials on Monday afternoon held seven people at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) suspected of having links with the Islamic State-linked Maute group.

Charo Logarta, a spokesperson for Cebu Pacific, said the seven were brought to the Airport Police Department's office at the NAIA.

Based on their tickets, the seven people were identified as Mawiyag Cota, Acmali Mawiyag, Abdulcahar Maute, Al Nizar Maute, Abdulrahman Maute, Yasser Maute, and Ashary Maute.

They were supposed to board flight 5J 499 of Cebu Pacific bound for Malaysia that left past 2 p.m., according to the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Immigration spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang said three of the intercepted passengers were released after finding out that they do not have derogatory records.

They are Mawiyag Cota, Acmali Mawiyag and Abdulcahar Maute.

The BI said the three were interviewed by members of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

The other four passengers, meanwhile, will be turned over to the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group and the National Bureau of Investigation for further probe and verification on their identity.

The Maute group - also known as the Islamic State of Lanao - is behind the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi that started on May 23 between them and government security forces.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs office chief, said they have yet to receive a report about the incident.

Arevalo said the AFP had provided airport and immigration authorities with the list of names and pictures of "persons of interest."

“Merong coordination with them na nagpu-provide ang AFP sa kanila ng mga pangalan, pictures ng mga persons of interest. Base sa binibigay na list, kapag may nakikita at may nagma-match, it is part of their mandate or hold that person for further interview,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Mindanao martial law adminstrator, issued two arrest orders against several suspected Maute group members.

Of the seven passengers held at the airport, only Abdulrahman Maute had a similar name on the arrest orders, Abdulrahman Romato Maute alias Damam.

President Rodrigo Duterte declare martial law in Mindanao following the Maute group's attack in Marawi City.

More than 400 people, mostly militants, have been killed in the ongoing conflict.  —with Virgil Lopez/ALG/KVD/KBK, GMA News