WATCH: When Al-Qaeda targeted Pope John Paul II
MANILA, Philippines – The last time a pope visited Manila in 1995, terrorist group Al Qaeda's tentacles in Southeast Asia was discovered.
Rappler Carmela Fonbuena filed this report.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
It’s now an apartment you can rent for less than a thousand dollars a month, but there is no price for what was discovered 20 years ago inside one of the rooms here in the Dona Jose apartments in Manila.
Manila traffic aide Danilo Que still remembers what happened.
DANILO QUE, MANILA TRAFFIC AIDE: Hindi alam ng tao, may terrorist plot na nadiskubre sa Luneta. (The people didn't know then that there was a terrorist plot.)
Only 6 days before the pope arrived on January 12, 1995 for his second visit, authorities discovered a room rented by two terrorists that belong to the first known cell of Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia.
Bottles of chemical bomb components and timing devices littered the room. A photo of the pope was also found tacked on a bulletin board.
It was pure luck, a miracle of sorts. Smoke from the chemical bombs they were mixing triggered the fire alarm and prompted the firefighters and cops to rush over.
Philippine security officials will later find out from their counterparts in the FBI that one of two men living in the apartment was Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing in New York in 1993.
A laptop found in the room also divulged other plots including Oplan Bojinka - the plot to bomb 11 airlines midair after the pope visit,
and the blueprint for the 9/11 attacks - the plan to hijack commercial airlines and dive them at the World Trade Center among other targets.
Twenty years later, another pope is visiting the Philippines. The apartment is being renovated and will get a new name. The world is also dealing with a new terror group, the ISIS, which represents the changing strategy of terrorists and the growing challenges that security officials face not only in protecting Pope Francis in his visit here but in fighting terrorism in general.
While the military says there are no serious threats against the pope, they’re afraid of so-called lone wolves, individual sympathizers who might want to get attention.
Security officers say they're preparing for worst case scenarios. You also hear them wish for more prayers.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler, Manila. – Rappler.When com