MAGUINDANAO – Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) founder Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato has died, the renegade group's spokesperson confirmed.
In a phone interview, BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said he received a call from Kato's son confirming the death of the BIFF leader.
He said Kato died at around 2 a.m. Tuesday.
Mama said two days ago, he got information that Kato was suffering from pneumonia. He said Kato was buried at 1 p.m. today but would not reveal the location where Kato died.
He added that following Kato's death, Ismael Abubakar, BIFF's vice chairman for political affairs, will now lead the group.
Reports from the military and police said Kato died in Barangay Kateman in Guindulungan, Maguindanao. This information, however, was denied by the village chairman.
Datu Manugkiang Midtimbang of Barangay Kateman said Kato and his men sought refuge in the village in 2012, but they were forced to flee due to the intensified operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
No BIFF rebel is currently seeking shelter in the mountains of Guindulungan, Midtimbang said.
Kato's group broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, a product of the peace negotiations between the MILF and the Arroyo administration.
Meanwhile, Von Al-Haq, spokesman of the MILF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces said the report they received about Kato's death is 99% percent reliable. He said the only information that has to be verified is the location where Kato died.