Friday, June 7, 2024

Government, military officials declare Lantawan in Basilan ASG-free

From MindaNews (Jun 6, 2024): Government, military officials declare Lantawan in Basilan ASG-free (By FRENCIE CARREON

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 6 June)—Government and military officials declared on Wednesday the municipality of Lantawan in Basilan as free from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Government, police and military officials release white doves and balloons as Lantawan is declared ASG-free. Photo courtesy of WestMinCom

Lt. Gen. William Gonzales, Western Mindanao Command chief, confirmed to MindaNews that Lantawan has been declared by the Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict (TF-ELAC) as ASG-free.

Basilan Gov. Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman also made the pronouncement during a ceremony in Lantawan on Tuesday, as quoted in a press statement from the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).

During the ceremony, various firearms surrendered by or seized from ASG personalities over the years were presented. These include a caliber .50 Barret sniper rifle, four M16A1 rifles, two M1 Garand rifles, one MAC-11 machine pistol/submachine gun, one shotgun, one M79 grenade launcher, and two caliber .45 pistols.

Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of the 101st Infantry Brigade, said the declaration of Lantawan as ASG-free is a historic milestone. “This achievement is a direct result of the unwavering resolve of the people of Lantawan, who chose peace over violence. It is a powerful symbol of hope and a testament to the strength of collaboration between the military, the local government, and the community,” he said.

Lantawan is the birthplace of Isnilon Hapilon, one of the ASG top leaders involved in the 2000 Dos Palmas kidnappings of 17 Filipinos, 3 Americans, and the beheading of American citizen Guillermo Sobero. Hapilon was eventually killed during the Marawi Siege in 2017 in a military operation that rescued 17 hostages.

Salliman said that declaring Lantawan as ASG-free is a significant achievement in terms of enhancing security, promoting development, and ensuring the well-being of its townsfolk.

Basilan Gov. Jim Salliman (rightmost) inspects the firearms once owned by Abu Sayyaf Group fighters. With him are (L-R) Lantawan Mayor Nasser Abubakar, 101st Infantry Brigade Commander Alvin Luzon, and Basilan Provincial Police Director Carlos Madronio. Photo courtesy of 4SFBn

Lantawan Mayor Nasser Abubakar led stakeholders in setting free white balloons and white doves to symbolize the welcoming of a peaceful economic development, expressing that with reduced security threats, there can be greater opportunities for economic activities, investments, and development projects. (Frencie L. Carreon / MindaNews)

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