Umbra Kato warns of post-Ramadan attacks

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DAVAO CITY (Updated 2:17 p.m.) -- A radical commander of a new Muslim rebel faction in the southern Philippines has warned of retaliation by his followers if he comes under attack.

Ameril Umbra Kato said now that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has ended, government troops or his former comrades in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could be planning to attack him in his jungle base in Maguindanao province.

Kato said Wednesday that he ordered hundreds of his men to defend their encampments if attacked.


He said his other armed followers in at least two other southern provinces can retaliate.

Kato said he notified his former rebel group in an August 19 letter that he has formed a new group to continue to fight for Muslim self-rule in the country's south.

Separate armed battles between the MILF and Kato's groups in Maguindanao from August 6 to 14 left 19 people dead and 31 others wounded.

Public Affairs Office of the Army's 6th Infantry Division chief Colonel Prudencio Asto earlier said that the group of Kumander Hadjmie of the 106th Base Command of the MILF crossed paths with Kumander Talio, who is reportedly the right hand man of Kato of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, in the boundary of Datu Piang and Datu Salibo.

Recently, Kato disassociated his group from the main MILF and created his own armed forces now called the "Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters."

Kato had said that he left because the main rebel group chose to "waste time" by deciding to negotiate with the government for expanded autonomy instead of fighting for an independent homeland that would liberate minority Muslims from crushing poverty and neglect.

He also accused the MILF of betraying the Bangsamoro people for
meeting President Benigno Aquino III on August 4 in Tokyo, Japan without consulting them.

He construed the meeting as "surrender" by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF chair, to the government.

Kato joined the MILF in 1993, five years after the late MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim returned from Pakistan in 1987. (AP/Sunnex)

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