3 ship passengers said to have links to Maute Group arrested in Iloilo

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File photos of brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute from Philstar

MANILA, Philippines – Three individuals believed to have links with the Maute Group were arrested in Iloilo by authorities Sunday afternoon.

A report by Bombo Radyo quoted Captain Leo Panupio of the Philippine Coast Guard-Northern Mindanao that the three — two males and one female — were pursued by authorities inside a ship that had docked in Iloilo City. The same report said another person who was with the three was able to escape.

The Coast Guard saw the four through video surveillance and noticed that they looked like those in the photos of Maute members that were disseminated to the public, according to the report.

It added that according to Panupio, while the three were being interrogated, one of them admitted to being a member of the extremist group, which has been fighting with government troops in Marawi City since May 23.

A separate report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) on Sunday quoted Lt. Edison Diaz, commander of the Iloilo Coast Guard, as saying that the three, intercepted at 3:15 p.m. and among the passengers of the MV St. Therese of Child Jesus operated by the 2GO shipping firm, were bound for Manila.

The vessel was set to leave for Manila around 5 p.m., Sunday, after a stopover at the Iloilo port from Cagayan de Oro City, the PDI report said.

The report added that according to Diaz, one of the men is believed to be a member of the Maute Group while the woman is his sister and the other man is said to be the woman’s boyfriend.

Identities, links still being established

But Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, on Monday said the identities of those arrested, whom he confirmed to have come from Cagayan de Oro City, and their exact relationship to Maute leaders were “still being established.”

“And until such time that we don’t get the categorical answer from the field, we could not include it on the report,” Padilla told reporters.

He said this was the first time that authorities received a report that persons allegedly linked to the Maute Group were monitored and apprehended outside of Mindanao.

“(B)ased on the initial monitoring there was nothing similar to this previously.”