February 15, 2008 in Nation/World

Officials say Islamists planned to kill Arroyo

Paul Alexander Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines – Security officials on Thursday reported uncovering plots to kill President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and bomb foreign embassies, just as opposition leaders were calling for more protests urging the unpopular Philippines leader to resign.

Brig. Gen. Romeo Prestoza, head of the Presidential Security Group, said the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group and its allies were behind the planned attacks.

Few details were announced. That sparked opposition claims the government was using scare tactics in hopes of curtailing an anti-Arroyo demonstration today in Manila’s financial district and a Sunday prayer rally involving the Roman Catholic Church and a democracy icon, former President Corazon Aquino.

Arroyo, a staunch U.S. ally plagued by long-running Islamic and communist insurgencies, has lurched from crisis to crisis since taking over in the country’s second “people power” revolt in 2001, fending off three impeachment bids and four coup plots. She has two years left in her term.

The military chief of staff, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, said the assassination plot reportedly involved a sniper ready to attack Arroyo when an opportunity arose.

Arroyo’s planned visit to the Philippines’ premier military academy this weekend in the northern city of Baguio was canceled, and her remaining schedule was “under assessment,” said Prestoza.

Prestoza said police uncovered the assassination plot last week. “It’s not only the president who is the target, but also other people … and embassies,” he said, without offering any details.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson said she had heard media reports about the alleged plot but would not comment further.

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