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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Aquino: Abu Sayyaf plotted to kidnap Pacquiao, Kris

Vowing to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf, the President also says that 'threats against my life have been investigated'

MANILA, Philippines – The Abu Sayyaf plotted to kidnap boxing icon Manny Pacquiao and Kris Aquino, President Benigno Aquino III said on Wednesday, April 27, as he vowed to use the "full resources" of the state to neutralize the terror group.

“Threats against my own life have been investigated,” Aquino also said in a statement two days after the murder of a Canadian kept hostage in Sulu for 7 months.

The President pledged to reduce the terror threat posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), noting that they have plotted and launched attacks to “catch the attention of ISIS” and gain access to the terror network’s funds and resources.

“ASG and various smaller terrorist groups and factions now want to align themselves with ISIS to gain access to the funds and resources of ISIS. From Day One of my administration, they have had aspirations to conduct bombings in Metro Manila to catch the attention of ISIS,” Aquino said.

To achieve this, the Abu Sayyaf hatched plots including the kidnapping of his sister, entertainer Kris Aquino, and boxing icon and senatorial candidate Manny Pacquiao, according to the President.

“They allegedly even hatched plots to kidnap Manny Pacquiao or one of his children, as well as my sister Kris or one of her children, with the plan to use them in bargaining for the release of their cohorts.”

He added: “May I emphasize that these have been, and remain, only aspirations.”

Sources close to the Aquino family told Rappler two weeks ago that Kris has been living in MalacaƱang in the wake of these threats.

The other plots uncovered by government is an attempt to recruit New Bilibid Prison inmates, Aquino said.

The Abu Sayyaf is holding at least 22 foreign hostages in Sulu, including 14 Indonesians who were kidnapped in late March and April, as well as 4 Malaysians.

All-out war

The killing of Canadian John Ridsdel angered the international community and embarrassed the Aquino administration, especially since the murder came on the day the President ordered the military to rescue him and his 3 other companions who were abducted on Samal Island in September 2015.

Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, the brigade commander of Army troops in Sulu, resigned in the wake of the beheading.

“Yesterday, I sent a letter to the family of John Ridsdel expressing our condolences. We are so appalled by this murder. Mr Ridsdel was a person against whom no one had any grievance – a person who was powerless against his captors,” Aquino said.

If the Abu Sayyaf thought the murder “could install fear in us,” Aquino added, the kidnappers got this wrong. What happened has “galvanized us even further to ensure justice is meted out,” he said.

He said the “full resources of the state” are being used against the Abu Sayyaf, with the “primary” objective of rescuing the hostages.

The President warned the public to expect casualties but gave assurances the military is trained and equipped to deal with the problem.

The outgoing President said he was “ready to devote all my energies towards ensuring that, at the very least, this will be a very seriously degraded problem that I will pass on to my successor.”

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