AFP: Basilan cleared of Abu Sayyaf influence

Roel Pareño - The Philippine Star

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The province of Basilan has been cleared of the influence of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, the military announced yesterday.

The announcement was made following a recent meeting conducted by the Area Clearing Validation Board (ACVAB) at the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) at Camp Navarro in this city.

“The ACVB evaluated Basilan and cleared the province of the influence of the Abu Sayyaf based on the recommendations of the preventing and countering violent extremism evaluation committee (PCVEC),” Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr. said.

The PCVEC reported that 29 barangays across Basilan, which were formerly known for the presence and of being supportive of the bandits, are no longer under the influence of the terror group.

The military said the clearing of these areas came after the completion of a community support program conducted by the Joint Task Force Basilan (JTFB).

These barangays are located in Isabela City as well as in the towns of Akbar, Al-Barka, Hadji Muhtamad, Lantawan, Maluso and Ungkaya Pukan.

Citing observations during the conduct of the community support program in these barangays, the military said there has been no existence of or existing support for the bandit group and no resource generation and teaching of extremist violence and radicalization in madrasahs or educational institutions.

Religious leaders in the barangays are promoting the right teachings of Islam, and no extremist violence was monitored, the military said.

“After a thorough evaluation and validation, we declare all 29 identified barangays in Basilan as free from the influence of Abu Sayyaf,” ACVAB chair and Westmincom deputy commander for external operations Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas said.

Rojas lauded the JTFB and the provincial government for exerting efforts to free the villages from the influence of the bandit group.

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