BIFF founder Umbra Kato is dead, Iqbal confirms

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) founder Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato is dead, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal has confirmed.

The renegade moro leader reportedly died at around 2 a.m. Tuesday, April 14, in Guindulungan, Maguindanao due to cardiac arrest. He previously suffered stroke twice.

Information about Kato's death also reached the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilal said they need to verify it. If true, he said it will further fragment the BIFF.

Kato is both a tactical commander and at the same time the spiritual leader of the BIFF, said Lt. Col. Harold M. Cabunoc, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office.

Iqbal did not elaborate his announcement, but called on their former comrades in the BIFF to return to the MILF and help forge a final peace agreement with the government. The military said some 300 men from the former MILF 105th Base Command are loyal to Kato.

In a separate statement, AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang ordered the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) to gather more details.

ISAFP chief Brigadier General Arnold Quiapo confirmed the news later and said the wake is in Barangay Katiman.

Umbra Kato, who is said to be a rallying leader of the splinter group, led attacks in Mindanao in 2008 after the Supreme Court junked a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the MILF and the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Sources: GMA News, ABS-CBN News, Interaksyon