THE Philippine National Police (PNP) recently reactivated an elite anti-terror unit following the series of bombings incidents in Mindanao and the emergence of a new ‘jihadist’ movement in the region.
“Task Force Sanlahi’ was reactivated sometime last week by PNP Chief, Director General Alan Purisima, based on orders of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd, a highly placed source in Camp Crame said.
PNP Public Information chief, Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac confirmed that “Task Force Sanlahi” the PNP’s premiere anti-terror unit had been reactivated last week and to be headed by a senior police official.
“The PNP chief ordered its reactivation last week… it’s an anti-terrorism task force and it was more of being reinvigorated,” Sindac said.
The PNP official said that “Task Force Sanlahi” will still be under the supervision of the PNP Intelligence Group (IG) and is to be headed by Senior Supt. Alen Bantolo, the deputy chief for administration of the Intelligence Group.
The Camp Crame source and Sindac said that “Task Force Sanlahi” will likely be based and operate mostly in the restive region of Mindanao where rebels and lawless elements continue to thrive.
The Camp Crame source said that the reactivated Task Force Sanlahi will be composed of at least a company sized group of police commandos from the Special Action Force (SAF), the elite strike unit of the PNP.
“They are now in the process of selecting personnel that will form the composition of Task Force Sanlahi and most of them will come from SAF… and they will be based in Mindanao,” the Camp Crame source said.
The source added that Bantolo was chosen to head the task force owing to his record and vast experience in intelligence operation and terrorism.
The reactivation of Task Force Sanlahi came on the heels of a series of bombing incidents in Mindanao in the past weeks, which had claimed the lives of 16 people and wounding of scores of others.
The bombing of a resto-bar in Cagayan de Oro City last July 26 that killed eight people and wounded scores of others is being blamed by authorities to “Khilafa Islamiya”, a newly formed group of jihadist.
The bombing in Cagayan de Oro City was followed a week later by another explosion in Cotabato City that also claimed the lives of eight people and wounding of scores of others.
Khilafa Islamiya was established by an Afghan trained Islamic cleric, Ustadz Human Abdul Najid, who is among those charged by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for the bombing in Cagayan de Oro City.
Members of the Khilafa Islamiya, according to an intelligence assessment report seen by The Manila Times, have undergone extensive training somewhere in Central Mindanao, a known bailiwick of Moro rebels.
The report said that KI recruits or members started training on ‘specialization course’ such as ‘bombardment, snipping and urban guerrilla warfare course’, which started end-August up to the first week of October, 2012.
Police estimate that the Khilafa Islamiya has around 40 regular members, eight of whom are hard core followers and 15 of whom are still undergoing Arabic language course.