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Malaysia frees students, cult members detained as terror suspects

Associated Press, USA
Nov. 24, 2003
Sean Yoong
www.thestar.com.my

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Monday November 24, 2003

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP): Malaysian police freed four students Monday who had been extradited from Pakistan on suspicion of involvement with the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, but kept nine others in custody, the national police chief said.

The students were sent back to Malaysia earlier this month after two months in custody in Pakistan, where they were rounded up in a sweep that also netted two Indonesians, one of them the younger brother of Jemaah Islamiyah’s jailed operations chief, Hambali.

The 13 Malaysians were immediately placed under the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial, and interrogated by police to determine the extent of their involvement with Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaida’s deadliest ally in Southeast Asia.

Amin Ahmad, 25; Ahmad Firdaus Kamaruddin, 18; Ahmad Muaz Bakry, 20; and Muhammad Tarmizi Nordin, 16, were released unconditionally “following the completion of investigations concerning them,” Inspector General of Police Bakri Omar said in a statement.

Family members of the other students met with officials at the national police headquarters, hoping to secure the release of their relatives ahead of Tuesday’s start of Eid el-Fitr, marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“I want my son back,” said housewife Rohaimah Salleh. “Our celebration will not be the same without him.”

Pakistan raided the Islamic schools in Karachi where the students were studying based on information given by Hambali during interrogations after his arrest in Thailand in August. Among those detained was his younger brother, Rusman Gunawan.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, is believed to be held in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location.

Malaysian officials had said the students were being trained as future leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah, which has carried out a string of bombings in Southeast Asia, including the attacks in Bali, Indonesia, last year that killed 202 people, and the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta in August that killed 12.

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities freed 15 members of the Muslim cult al-Ma’unah who had been held under the Internal Security Act at a prison camp in northern Malaysia, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.

“All of them are truly remorseful for what they have done and have resolved to start a new life and not to repeat their misdeeds,” Abdullah said in a statement carried by the national news agency, Bernama.

None of those freed was directly involved with a major security scare al-Ma’unah gave Malaysia three years ago, when members seized weapons from military armories with the hope of triggering a revolt. The thieves were tracked down and killed two hostages during a standoff with police before surrendering.

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