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MILF military affairs chief dies

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02:27 PM May 4th, 2012

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May 4th, 2012 02:27 PM

MANILA, Philippines—A high ranking official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) died, MILF political affairs chief Ghadzali Jaafar on Friday announced.

Aleem Abdul Azis Mimbantas suffered a stroke and died at 10:25 p.m. on Thursday, Jaafar told reporters by phone.

“With sadness, we announce the untimely demise of Vice Chairman Mimbantas,” Jaafar said. “The MILF mourns this passing of a senior member of the MILF Central Committee.”

Reports of Mimbantas’ death spread like wildfire here Friday and in other parts of Mindanao.

MILF officials earlier declined to confirm the reports, saying they were still awaiting confirmation from his family in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

But a source close to Mimbantas’ family said the rebel official was traveling home to Butig from this city on Thursday when he showed signs of a heart attack.

“He was immediately rushed to the nearest hospital but he died along the way,” said the source, who requested anonymity.

Mimbantas was reported to be 65 years old.

Jaafar earlier told the Inquirer that Mimbantas died in his sleep inside Camp Palestine in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator in peace talks with the government, said the rebel group will make a formal announcement on Mimbantas’ death after getting “official word from his family.”

Abul Alibasa, a Maranao youth leader, described Mimbantas’ death as  cause for mourning among the Bangsamoro.

He described the rebel leader as “hero in the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination.”

“We join the Bangsamoro people in mourning the death of a hero,” Alibasa said.

Alibasa said he and other Moro youth leaders were going to Butig on Friday “to pay our last respects to an influential figure in our self-governance quest.”

In Muslim custom and tradition, the dead should be buried within 24 hours.

Mimbantas, is a native of Masiu, Lanao del Sur.

Mimbantas, who was educated at the Al-Azhar University in Egypt along with many senior MILF leaders,  was previously rumored to be the next MILF chief. He was vice chair for external affairs when Salamat Hashim died in 2003.

When Murad Ebrahim, then vice chairman for military affairs, was named MILF chief after Hashim’s death, Mimbantas was appointed in his stead.

Reports from Richel Umel, Ryan Rosauro and Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao; and Frances Mangosing

Originally posted at 11:42 a.m.

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