Philippines to form elite force based on Britain's SAS
Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Thursday he will form an elite force based on Britain's SAS to handle future hostage incidents, after a bungled rescue left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.
He said he decided to create the force after seeing local police commandos take almost an hour to assault a tourist bus hijacked by a sacked policeman on August 23.
Eight Hong Kong residents and the gunman died in the botched rescue attempt.
"The training and maintenance of these elite forces is expensive. England, for all its wealth, has only 200 people in their SAS, who are trained to that level," Aquino said in a live television interview.
"We will copy to a degree the formation of that national unit," he added.
The special force would be an integrated military and police team, numbering between 200 and 400, to respond to any threat in any part of the country, he said.
Britain's Special Air Service has been called one of the world's toughest anti-terrorist units and has provided advice to other governments on handling hostage rescue situations.
Aquino did not say whether the Philippines would ask for British help in organising this elite force, but conceded that the Philippines was already receiving training assistance from six countries which he did not name.
He also said he had misplaced confidence in the police commandos in their plans to rescue the hostages who were held in a tourist bus by a disgruntled ex-policeman in central Manila on August 23.
"What I have seen (previously) in television and in (police) demonstrations was not what I saw," he said, describing his frustration at seeing the confused rescue effort unfold on global television.
Aquino did not say when the elite force would be organised or how it would be trained.
© 2010 AFP