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Radicals running Kato group–MILF

/ 07:20 PM August 21, 2012

COTABATO CITY—A more radical leader has taken charge of renegade Moro guerrillas who launched a series of attacks on civilian communities that authorities said were aimed at sabotaging peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), according to the MILF.

In a statement posted on its website, the MILF said Ameril Umra Kato is too weak to lead members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in attacks on civilian communities in Maguindanao.

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While still the figure head of the BIFF, a group that Kato formed after he broke off from the MILF, Kato is not physically in charge of renegade guerrillas who attacked villages in several Maguindanao towns and set off clashes with government troops that forced the evacuation of up to 40,000 people, the MILF said.

It said Kato’s right-hand man, Mohammad Ali Tambako, has taken over leadership of BIFF after Kato suffered a debilitating stroke in October last year.

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Tambako, whom the MILF described as also a Maguindanaoan like Kato, was running BIFF affairs even before the Aug. 5-11 attacks launched by BIFF members in six towns in Maguindanao.

Tambako, according to the MILF, is known to be more radical than Kato. Tambako studied Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s as a government scholar.

The MILF said Tambako is also a cleric who trained in Khartoum, Sudan, and he supervised the attacks on civilian communities in the Maguindanao towns of Datu Unsay, Shariff Aguak, Datu Saudi, Ampatuan, Datu Hoffer and Guindulungan.

The MILF, quoting unidentified residents of Datu Unsay, said Kato, 75, became too weak after the stroke that he could neither stand nor walk without the help of at least two aides.

“He was seen as very weak and frail,” the MILF said.

Kato’s health was deteriorating quickly that he had to be slipped past military cordon in Maguindanao, where the BIFF maintained camps, to be treated at a hospital in Cebu last month, the MILF said.

A politician, whom the MILF refused to identify, helped smuggle Kato out of Maguindanao and into Cebu to be hospitalized.

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Kato carries a P10-million prize on his head and briefly retook control of BIFF in July to hold a news conference. The MILF said that during the conference, Kato was apparently too weak to even read from a prepared statement.

The Army offensives on BIFF continued with soldiers taking two more BIFF camps in the mountains of Datu Unsay and Datu Hoffer towns last Friday.

Col. Prudencio Asto, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said one of the seized hilltop camps can accommodate more than 100 men and has clinics and bunkers. Soldiers also found what Asto said could be Kato’s wheelchair.

The other seized camp, he said, has four bunkers and 10 foxholes.

Asto said soldiers were briefly pinned down by sniper fire as they advanced toward one of the camp but suffered no casualty. Edwin Fernandez and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Ameril Umra Kato, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Mohammad Ali Tambako, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Regions
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