Kato’s alive in video released by followersBy Jeoffrey Maitem
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Ameril Umra Kato, leader of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, has resurfaced, at least in a video in which he is shown telling followers he wanted to put to rest claims he died from a stroke last November.
BIFF spokesman Abu Misri Mama, who released the video to the media earlier in the week, gave no indication when it was taken nor did he present proof of its authenticity, saying only that it proves all claims of Kato’s death were false.
“It’s not true that I died,” Kato is shown in the video telling BIFF fighters in an undisclosed place in Maguindanao. He said the rumors of his death were started by people who wanted the BIFF demoralized. He did not identify them though.
Kato broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front over disagreements concerning peace talks with the government and the failure of the MILF to come to his defense in battles with government forces following the collapse of peace talks in 2008. The talks between the government and the MILF have since resumed.
The MILF was in fact among the first to announce that Kato, a former MILF field commander in Maguindanao, had died. Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF political affairs chair, said their information was very reliable and that Kato’s relatives had even offered prayers on the seventh day of his demise, but they never presented any proof.
Von Al Haq, MILF spokesman, said they had tapped the help of locals to search for Kato’s grave “to once and for all put to rest the issue,” but nothing was ever heard of the search again.
The military made similar claims but admitted not having any proof.
The claims of Kato’s death gained some credence when Mama himself said that he and other BIFF fighters had not seen Kato since late November. He said they had also been barred from calling Kato’s phone.
In explaining Kato’s long absence when he presented the video to reporters last Thursday, Mama said: “He only took a break as advised by his physicians.”
He said Kato was now back at the helm of the BIFF.
Meanwhile, the MILF has declined to make any statement on Kato’s video.