First would be the death of Ameril Umbra Kato and then would come the end of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Tuesday.
“If indeed he has died, the group will lose its influence and will see its gradual demise due to the lack of popular support,” said Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala, newly appointed AFP spokesperson.
Kakilala was reacting to reports that Umbra Kato, founder of the BIFF, had died earlier in the day.
Moreover, the AFP spokesperson said “His death would open the door for greater peace and unity in Central Mindanao because Kato was staunchly against the peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front).”
Nevertheless, Kakilala said the AFP was still verifying if the rebel leader had indeed died.
“We received information regarding his death but we still have to validate it,” he said.
Multiple sources have told the Inquirer that Kato died from a stroke at about 2 a.m. on Tuesday in his hideout in Guindulungan, Maguindanao.
“Kato is the source of inspiration by the members of the BIFF who joined him in waging violent attacks against peaceful communities,” Kakilala said.
The BIFF broke away from the MILF in although many believe that the two groups are only two faces of the same coin.
Recently, the military launched all-out offensives against the BIFF which displaced thousands.
The military claims it has substantially decimated the group.