Philippines president 'targeted by terror plot' amid coup concern

An alleged plot by al-Qaida-linked militants to assassinate President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has sparked cancellation of her planned visit to the Philippines’ premier military academy this weekend.

An alleged plot by al-Qaida-linked militants to assassinate President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has sparked cancellation of her planned visit to the Philippines’ premier military academy this weekend.

Brigadier General Romeo Prestoza, head of the Presidential Security Group, said “other people” and foreign embassies also were targets of planned terror bombings.

Military chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon said the plot allegedly was hatched by the extremist Abu Sayyaf group and its Indonesia-based ally, Jemaah Islamiyah.

The reported assassination plot followed an announcement by security forces that they were going on high alert over an alleged communist rebel plan to infiltrate protests to demand Mrs Arroyo’s resignation over corruption charges.

Military spokesman Captain Carlo Ferrer said intelligence reports indicated the communist rebels planned to disrupt an opposition-led rally tomorrow “to create confusion and chaos”.

The rebels vowed yesterday to intensify attacks to weaken the government, but they have largely refrained from assaults that could hurt civilians during their four-decade insurgency.

Opposition leaders dismissed the military’s announcement as a ploy to discourage crowds from joining the protest in Makati, Manila’s financial district.

Political tensions have increased since the emergence last week of a corruption witness who linked a former elections chief and Mrs Arroyo’s husband to an allegedly overpriced $330m (€226m) government broadband contract in Senate testimony. Both men have denied the allegations.

Mrs Arroyo has survived three opposition impeachment bids and four attempted power grabs, mainly because of support from loyal generals and a formidable political coalition during her seven years in power.

She has been accused of rigging the 2004 election and was later implicated by opposition politicians in a series of corruption scandals, along with members of her family.

Mrs Arroyo has rejected the allegations and vowed to finish her term until 2010.

Amid fresh coup rumours, army chief Lieutenant General Alexander Yano publicly reaffirmed his command’s loyalty to Mrs Arroyo.

“We are more than capable to thwart all attempts to destabilise and overthrow the government,” Lt Gen Yano told a news conference.

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