AFP will join MILF in hunt vs. Kato – EastMinCom

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/30 Sept) – Government troops and Moro rebels will jointly hunt down breakaway Moro rebel commander Ameril Umra Kato once the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) officially severs its ties with the fugitive rebel leader.

Lt. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, commander of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command, said Friday their troops are ready to pursue Kato but such move would be done based on the provisions of several agreements that had been signed by the MILF and the government peace panels as part of the ongoing peace negotiations.

“We will do it in tandem with the MILF and based on the existing agreements,” Tabaquero said in a press conference in Koronadal City.

He specifically cited the standing ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF and the accord’s supporting mechanisms, among them the Ad-hoc Joint Action Group or AHJAG. AHJAG is a joint government and MILF mechanism that seeks to interdict and isolate lawless elements that take refuge in or near MILF communities.

Mindanews File Photo Courtesy of Yam Palma/ MPCMILF officials said earlier this week that the rebel group already dropped Kato from its roster after the latter did not heed the September 26 deadline set by the MILF for him to return to its fold. Kato, who earlier formed the breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), was also deemed by the MILF as no longer covered by the ceasefire agreement and the peace process.

But Tabaquero said they are holding off any military actions against Kato “pending the issuance of a declaration from the MILF that he’s no longer part of them.”

“We’re still waiting for the official statement from the MILF. We want to have the official documents (in our hands) first before acting on the matter,” he said.

Von Al Haq, MILF spokesperson, earlier said the MILF central committee will soon issue an official statement regarding the status of Kato based on recommendations from the Ulama Council, an independent group of Islamic scholars.

He said the MILF will then will then relay the matter to the government peace panel, through the Malaysian facilitator.

Kato, who had openly expressed dismay over the slow pace of the peace process, cut off ties with the MILF and formed the BIFM and its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which is reportedly composed of 300 followers.

MILF officials said Kato has been holding base at Camp Omar, an MILF bailiwick recognized by the government and MILF panels, and which lies in the boundary of Guindulungan and Datu Hoffer towns in Maguindanao.

Kato is facing arrest for multiple murder, 15 counts of arson, nine counts of attempted murder and 26 counts of frustrated murder and robbery as a result of the attacks launched by his unit in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces in 2008. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)

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