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Largest bastion of Abu Sayyaf in Basilan now 'peace zone'

COTABATO CITY — What was touted as the largest bastion of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, birthplace of its leader who was killed during their 2017 siege of Marawi City, is now a "peace zone," cleared from the presence of terrorists fomenting hatred for non-Muslims.  

Local executives and moderate Muslim clerics in the island province, representatives from the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade and the Basilan Provincial Police Office together celebrated on Tuesday, right in Lantawan town in the island province, its having been made “Abu Sayyaf  free” via multi-sectoral peace and security initiatives supported by former members of the group, who had pledged allegiance to the government years before.

In statements released to reporters on Friday, Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, commander of the Philippine Army, and Brig. Gen. Prexy Tanggawohn, director of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, separately said that they are grateful to police units in Basilan, the 101st Infantry Brigade under Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, to Gov. Hadjiman Salliman and the league of mayors in the province for having embarked on peacebuilding projects that resulted in Lantawan’s having been cleared from presence of the Abu Sayyaf.

“Actually that liberation effort began about five years ago with local government units, the military and the police’s having cleared the mountain ranges in the Sampinit Complex in the center of Basilan from Abu Sayyaf terrorists where a highway is being constructed now to connect that area to different towns in the province and to its two cities, Lamitan and Isabela,” Galido said.

Tanggawohn told reporters on Friday that credit for Lantawan’s having been cleared from Abu Sayyaf presence has to go to its mayor, Nasser Abubakar, to the Salliman administration and barangay officials in the municipality, the provincial police and military units in the province.

“They did it the Filipino `bayanihan’ style, along with the police and units of the Armed Forces there,” Tanggawohn said.

Lantawan, birthplace of the Tausug Isnilon Hapilon, the last leader of the Abu Sayyaf who was killed by soldiers during their siege, along with the Maute terror group, of Marawi City from