Philippines: Manny Pacquiao was on Abu Sayyaf target list
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Philippines: Manny Pacquiao was on Abu Sayyaf target list

ABU SAYYAF militants may have planned to kidnap several high profile individuals, including boxing star Manny Pacquiao, revealed President Benigno Aquino III yesterday.

Apart from being a target himself, Aquino said the group responsible for the beheading of a Canadian hostage earlier this week had also plotted to plant explosives in central Manila, aiming to gain funding from the Islamic State terrorist group.

However, Aquino, whose six-year term ends in June, said the plans were revealed and the weakening of the militants at the hands of the military had foiled the attempts to cause extensive harm.

The outgoing president also vowed “to devote all his energies” to ensure that the extremists would be “at the very least … a very seriously degraded problem” for his successor.

SEE ALSO: Philippines: Abu Sayyaf militants behead Canadian man after failing to gain ransom

While he has forged a peace pact with a larger Muslim rebel group, Aquino said there is no possibility of engaging in talks with the brutal Abu Sayyaf, which is accused of beheading Canadian John Ridsdel on Monday in southern Sulu province.

“We have always believed in the power of dialogue, development and positive engagement over arms,” Aquino said.

But he said of Abu Sayyaf: “You have chosen only the language of force and we will speak to you only in that language.”

On Monday night, police recovered the severed head of Canadian national John Ridsdel, which was found dumped in Barangay Walled City on Jolo island, Sulu province.

Ridsdel was reportedly killed by his Abu Sayyaf captors after the deadline for 900 million pesos (US$19.5 million) in ransom was not met.

Additional reporting by Associated Press