Kato’s reported death denied anew by his camp

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/27 Nov) — Reports about Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato’s death have been spreading since Friday, the latest saying he died Saturday night in Toril, Davao City but as of  6 p.m. Sunday, the Mayor’s Office in Davao City, the Philippine National Police and the Eastern Mindanao Command and barangay officials in Toril could not confirm the report.

The report, spread through SMS, said Kato, former commander of the 105th base command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and founder of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF),  which broke away from the MILF,  “passed away in Toril after magrib 6 p.m” and that “his first wife took care of him.”

But Mohaiden Indung, Kato’s chief of staff in the BIFF,  told MiindaNews in a telephone interview Sunday that Kato is “still recovering” from a stroke and that he can now stand and eat but cannot speak to media because of his condition.

On Saturday. BIFF spokesperson Abumisry Mama told MindaNews Kato was “still recovering from poor health but we can assure you he is alive.”

Mama, however, said Kato could not speak on the phone.

Abdul, one of Kato’s close aides also said in a telephone interview last Saturday that Kato “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, commander of the 105th Base Command of the MILF resigned from his post in a letter to the MILF’s Central Committee in December 2009 and set up the BIFF in March 2010.

The MILF Central Committee on September 22 this year passed a resolution formally expelling Kato.

But part of the resolution read that if Kato and his followers “make amends and be repentant,” the door of the MILF “is still wide open.”

MILF information chief Mohagher Iqbal on Saturday said the MILF  was willing to extend financial assistance to the ailing Kato.

Earlier, Brig. Gen. Ray Ardo, chief of the 6th Infantry Division offered safe passage and hospital treatment to Kato at the Camp Siongco Hospital in Maguindanao but Kato’s 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 death of many civilians.

The attack also displaced thousands of residents in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)