COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/25 November) — The breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters denied reports that their leader Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato had passed away this morning, a few days after he reportedly became bedridden due to a stroke last Wednesday.
“He is still recovering from poor health from but we can assure you he is alive,” BIFF spokesperson Abumisry Mama said over the phone.
Asked if MindaNews could talk to Kato on the phone, Mama said, “not this time.”
In another phone call this afternoon to a certain Abdul, one of Kato’s close aides, said: “Ustadz had just taken his lunch, though he is still weak. He is trying his best to regain health. We asked doctors from Davao City to check him.”
Kato broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front over his disillusionment with the progress of the peace process, and formed the BIFF.
Despite their differences with Kato the MILF said they were willing to extend financial help to him after getting reports that he had become comatose.
“The least we can extend to him as a former comrade and brother is to reach out financial assistance now that he needs our help,” according to MILF chief of information Mohagher Iqbal.
Earlier, the 6th Infantry Division offered safe passage and hospital treatment to Kato at Camp Siongco Hospital in Maguindanao after Brig. Gen. Ray Ardo learned that he was hit by a mild stroke but the group rejected the offer.
Kato is facing multiple murder cases in various courts for launching attacks in North Cotabato in 2008 after the botched signing of Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain leading to the deaths of many civilians.
The attack also displaced thousands of residents in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces.
The MILF had officially removed Kato from their roster on the recommendation of Muslim religious leaders. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)