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Muslim extremists planned to kill Pope John Paul II during a recent Philippine visit using a suicide bomber who believed that he would enter paradise by blowing up the Catholic leader, a former Muslim rebel said Thursday.

Edwin Angeles told a news conference that the plot was not carried out because "there was no opportunity." Angeles, described by police as the operations and political officer of the Abu Sayyaf fundamentalist group, surrendered in February. Police said the surrender was kept under wraps for some time so as not to jeopardize operations against other extremists.

Angeles said the plot to kill the pope was hatched by Abu Sayyaf members and foreign extremists, allegedly including Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was captured in Pakistan in February and turned over to U.S. authorities to face trial for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Philippine officials first divulged the plot against the pope in January after police raided a Manila apartment allegedly used by Yousef to manufacture liquid-type bombs a few days before the pontiff's arrival.

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