Philippines president says Abyu Sayyaf terrorists had plotted to kidnap boxing star Manny Pacquiao
Militants reportedly also wanted to explode bombs in metropolitan Manila to try to get funding from Islamic State.
A terrorist group in the Philippines that beheaded a Canadian this week had designs on kidnapping Manny Pacquiao, said President Benigno Aquino III, who added there was an assassination plot perhaps aimed at him, too.
Abu Sayyaf militants reportedly also wanted to explode bombs in metropolitan Manila to try to get funding from Islamic State, but the plans were uncovered and troops have reduced the group’s ability to inflict harm.
Though Aquino has forged a peace pact with a larger Muslim rebel group, he said there is no possibility of engaging in talks with Abu Sayyaf, which is accused of beheading Canadian John Ridsdel on Monday in southern Sulu province.
Ridsdel, 68, was beheaded after Abu Sayyaf did not receive a large ransom it had demanded by Monday. Another Canadian, a Norwegian and a Filipina who were kidnapped with Ridsdel from a southern marina in September are still being held by the militants, along with about 20 other foreign hostages.
Pacquiao, coming off a unanimous decision victory over Timothy Bradley on April 9 at MGM Grand, announced his retirement after the bout and is seeking election to the Philippines Senate on May 9.
A Pacquiao spokesman in the US said he hasn’t immediately heard from the record eight-division world champion since news of the plot broke, and a close friend of Pacquiao’s in the Philippines did not immediately respond to an email.
“We have always believed in the power of dialogue, development and positive engagement over arms,” Aquino said of Abu Sayyaf. “You have chosen only the language of force, and we will speak to you only in that language.”
Aquino’s six-year term ends in June. He vowed “to devote all my energies” to ensure that the extremists would be “at the very least … a very seriously degraded problem” for his successor.
Police have recovered Ridsdel’s head, which was dumped by the militants in Sulu’s Jolo town. A headless body of a Caucasian man was also found by villagers in a mountain clearing in Sulu and police forensic experts were checking on Wednesday to see if it was that of the former mining executive.