COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/14 April) – Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato, founder of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) passed away Tuesday, Mayor Samsoddin “Pink” Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao confirmed to MindaNews.
Citing information he received from Kato’s relatives and other sources in Maguindanao, Dimaukom said in a phone interview that the rebel leader died from cardiac arrest somewhere in Guindulungan,Maguindanao at around 2 a.m. Tuesday.
“Yes, namatay daw siya gaya nung unang nyang sakit na na-stroke,” the mayor said.
But the official said he did not know where Kato would be buried, as Muslim practice requires a dead person to be buried no longer than 24 hours after his death.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal also said in a text message that the report was “99% confirmed”.
Reports of Kato’s death have been circulating in the region since early Tuesday.
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama has neither denied nor confirmed the information, saying they too were flooded with reports about Kato’s death.
“I’m on the way to his undisclosed location. The close-in people around him has not yet confirmed to me given the difficulty of communication with them”, Mama said.
Ustadz Wahid Tundok, who served as Kato’s sub-commander of the 105th Base Command of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force, said he also received such report. Tundok now heads the 108th Base Command.
Kato left the MILF to form the BIFF over differences on the conduct of the peace talks with government.
“For us Muslims, we cannot hide the truth of our death. In due time we will know the real score after our validation today,” Tundok said.
Major General Edmundo Pangilinan of the 6th Infantry Division said they were verifying the same report through their intelligence arm.
“Yes we received calls and queries of his death but we are waiting too of confirmed reports,” Pangilinan said.
Maguindanao provincial police director Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson said they were still trying to get word on the possible place of burial if it’s indeed true that Kato has died.
Kato told MindaNews’ Carolyn O. Arguillas in an interview on April 16, 2011, that he set up the BIFF around March 2010, three months after he tendered his resignation as commander of the 105th Base Command.
It reportedly started with 50 fully-armed members, mostly relatives and loyal followers of Kato from the 105th Base Command, and drew more recruits.
Kato figured in attacks in North Cotabato in 2008 after the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement of Ancestral Domain.
He carried a P10-million bounty on his head.
Early in February this year, the military launched an “all-out offensive” against the BIFF in response to the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 that left 44 police commandoes, 17 MILF rebels and five civilians dead. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)