‘BIFF will not die with Ameril Umra Kato’
COTABATO CITY, Philippines—Ameril Umra Kato, the founding chair of the breakaway rebel group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), is dead.
Abu Misri Mama, speaking for BIFF, in a phone interview confirmed that the group’s founding chair “has returned to his creator.” He added that BIFF followers have accepted Kato’s fate but vowed that “BIFF will not die with him.”
Mama said he had talked with the BIFF leader’s son who confirmed the death in a phone conversation. Mama said he decided not to go to where Kato was buried as it was too far and because Kato was already buried Tuesday morning.
“I’ve talked to his son who confirmed the death of his father. He was buried this (Tuesday) morning,” he said.
Earlier, Mayor Samsodin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, quoting Kato’s relatives and close allies, said the BIFF founding chair suffered a cardiac arrest at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in his hideout in a remote village of Guindulungan, Maguindanao.
“Yes, his relatives confirmed he succumbed to cardiac arrest,” Dimaukom told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, adding that the 69-year-old renegade leader suffered a mild stroke in 2011.
Mama said they have accepted the fate of their founding leader.
“We cannot do anything about it. We will mourn but BIFF will not die with him,” Mama said.
According to Mama, the structure of BIFF, as a revolutionary organization, ensures that if a person or a leader dies, someone will automatically replace him to ensure the continuity of their struggle.
The rebel spokesperson said the council of leaders of BIFF would immediately meet to talk about the direction and the adjustments in the organization.
“As of the moment, BIFF’s vice chair for political affairs Ustadz Abubakr Esmael will temporarily fill up the position until the plenary,” Mama said.
In 2011, Kato was also reported to have died after he suffered a mild stroke.
In 2008, Kato, then the commander of Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 105th base command, led a group of MILF forces in attacking civilian communities following the Supreme Court’s decision declaring the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain unconstitutional.
In 2009, Kato broke away from MILF, due to what he called “abandonment” when the the group’s central committee declared a suspension of military actions to end the yearlong war due to the botched signing of the MOA-AD and disagreements in the conduct of the peace talks with the government. He then formed BIFF. He was replaced by his deputy, Zacaria Goma, as commander of MILF 105th base command.
The BIFF has since been attacking military positions in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. It, along with the MILF’s 105th base command, was also involved in the Jan. 25 fighting in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that left 44 police commandos, 17 rebels and three civilians dead.
A month after the Mamasapano carnage, the military launched an all-out offensive against the BIFF, which is suspected of coddling bomber Basit Usman. The military said it killed more than 100 BIFF rebels in the month-long offensive. SM
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