The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leadership has declared renegade commander Ameril Umbra Kato out of the organization, following his continued refusal to talk with chairman Al Haj Murad
Ebrahim.

“Kami sa central committee kinonfirm na siya’y (Kato) hindi na MILF… officially hindi na siya MILF,” Ghadzali Jaafar, the rebel group’s vice chairman for political affairs, told reporters in a phone interview.

The central committee’s confirmation was based on a letter by Kato dated August 19, declaring that he and his followers are no longer part of the MILF, Jaafar said.

He said the MILF leadership is set to come up with a resolution that would formalize Kato and his followers’ “decision” to leave.

On Monday, a two-week period given by MILF religious leaders for Kato to patch differences with chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim also expired.

“He (Kato) ignored the appeal of the ulama for him to go back to the folds of the MILF at nagmatigas siya, he insisted on staying out,” Jaafar said.

The rebel official, however, said the religious leaders will meet again on September 29 to “finalize” their position on Kato’s acts.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Oban said the military is ready to take action against Kato.

“He (Kato) has a pending warrant of arrest and with that as basis, it becomes a law enforcement action. We’ll support the PNP in pursuing that particular course of action,” Oban told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

The military chief, however, said they still have to consult the matter with government peace negotiators.

Kato, whose capture fetches a P10-million reward, is covered by arrest warrants for multiple murder, 15 counts of arson, nine counts of attempted murder, frustrated murder, and 26 counts of robbery, according to the police.

The cases stemmed from Kato’s leading the MILF 105th Base Command in attacks on civilian communities in Central Mindanao in 2008.

Authorities were unable to arrest Kato after the attacks without the clashing with MILF fighters, who hold him in high regard for his being an ustadz or teacher.

Officials of the MILF also came to Kato’s defense, saying the issue with him should be resolved only by the rebel group because it was “internal,” and that he cannot be arrested because of the ceasefire with the government.

Kato now leads the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, a group comprising other former members of the 105th Base Command and some other MILF field units, according to sources.

The BIFM recently changed its name from Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The group still occupies the MILF’s Camp Omar in Maguindanao, according to Jaafar. (John Roson)

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