Philippines military to expand counter-terrorism unit
MANILA (AFP) - The Philippine government is to triple the size of a special forces military unit that operates against Islamist militants responsible for deadly bombings and kidnappings of Westerners, officials said on Tuesday.
The Light Reaction Battalion is to be built up to regiment size, Philippine Army chief Lieutenant-General Noel Coballes said, an increase from about 500 soldiers to as many as 1,500.
"We have seen how effective they are, so we are strengthening the unit in terms of anti-terrorism. From a battalion we'll increase it to a regiment," he said.
The unit is fighting the Abu Sayyaf, a group of several hundred Islamist militants who are behind the country's deadliest attacks as well as kidnappings of Western targets.