MANILA — With the reported death of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) founding chair Ameril Umbra Kato Tuesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it is very likely that the group will lose its influence and go on the decline.
“If he indeed has died, the group will lose its influence and will see its gradual demise due to the lack of popular support. Also, his death would open the door for greater peace and unity in Central Mindanao (because) Kato was staunchly against the peace talks bet the GPH (Government of the Philippines) and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front),” AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said.
However, he added that the military is still verifying this information.
“Our intelligence units are still confirming it. But, the information is a welcome development.Kato is the source of inspiration by the members of the BIFF who joined him in waging violent attacks against peaceful communities,” Kakilala stressed.
MILF chief negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal earlier said Kato died at about 2 a.m. Tuesday. He could not say where.
“Our information was he passed away due to cardiac arrest,” Iqbal told reporters.
Mayor Samsodin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao also confirmed the death of Kato.
Quoting Kato’s relatives and close allies, Dimaukom said the BIFF founding chair suffered a cardiac arrest at 2:30 a.m. today in his hideout in a remote village of Guindulungan, Maguindanao.
“His relatives confirmed to me that he succumbed to cardiac arrest,” Dimaukom said, adding that the 78-year-old renegade leader also suffered a mild stroke two years ago.
Dimaukom said relatives and friends, including BIFF members, are now attending to his remains in an undisclosed area in Guindulungan.
Kato will be buried within 24 hours from the time he died according to Islamic tradition.