The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group has given a radical commander with hundreds of fighters a final warning to stop a mutiny or face expulsion, which would expose his breakaway force to possible military assaults.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front's central committee plans to issue a resolution declaring that Ameril Umbra Kato is no longer a member unless he returns to its fold, an unlikely prospect since he has rejected earlier calls to rejoin, the group's vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar said Wednesday.
Philippine officials have expressed concern over the infighting in the 11,000-strong Moro rebel group, which they say cast doubts on its ability to enforce any future accord in peace talks brokered by Malaysia.
The guerrillas have said the uprising by Kato, who used to head one of their largest and most battle-tested commands, was an internal problem they were trying to defuse and asked the military not to attack him while they tried to woo him and his armed men back.
Jaafar said an expulsion will mean Kato is no longer covered by preliminary agreements the rebel group has forged with the government, including a truce that shields rebels from military assaults.
"Personally, I already consider him and his men a lost command," Jaafar told The Associated Press. "When the resolution is issued very soon, he'll be officially declared outside the group, fighting without any cause."
Presidential adviser on the peace talks Teresita Deles did not comment on reports of Kato's impending ouster but said government negotiators would ask guerrillas about his status when peace talks resume on Aug. 22 in Malaysia.
Kato, who is in his late 60s and leads a breakaway force of 200 to 300 fighters, resigned from the Moro rebel group last December, saying he was too old. However, he later formed a rebel faction called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters that refused to recognize the current rebel leadership, Jaafar said.
Kato has also opposed the main rebel group's peace talks with the government and called for jihad, or holy war, for a separate Muslim state.
After rejecting the rebel group's peaceful overtures for months, Kato angered rebel leaders recently when he allowed one of his breakaway commanders to attack another commander with the main guerrilla group over an old land feud, rebel spokesman Von Al Haq said.
The weeklong clashes between the two commanders killed at least 14 combatants and displaced more than 3,000 villagers in Datu Piang town in southern Maguindanao province. At least four guerrillas belonging to the main group were mutilated by Kato's men during the clashes, Al Haq said.
"That was the final straw," Al Haq said. "He sent in reinforcements to his commander while we were trying to solve the land dispute by dialogue."
Al Haq said emissaries were making last-minute efforts to persuade several commanders under Kato to return to the main group.
Philippine security officials have accused Kato in the past of providing refuge to members of the Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiyah and Filipino militants like Usman Basit who have been sought by U.S. and Philippine authorities in connection with deadly bomb attacks.
The BIFF !
A renegade commander said Thursday he has split from the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group and formed a new group with hundreds of fighters to wage a war for a separate homeland.
Ameril Umbra Kato told The Associated Press in a cellphone interview from his jungle hide-out in southern Maguindanao province that he would not return to the main Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has threatened to expel him after he led a mutiny in December.
Kato denied allegations by Philippine security officials that he has links with al-Qaida-linked militants in the country's volatile south and was involved in deadly bombings and terrorist attacks.He said his new group would be known as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Front. Its guerrilla wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, was organized in January, a month after he broke off from the main Muslim guerrilla force over differences with insurgent leaders.
"This is the true jihad, the true revolution," Kato said.
Kato, who has about 200 to 300 fighters according to his former comrades, did not give details about his combat force or say what next steps he would take.
Kato, who is in his late 60s, said he left because his former group chose to "waste time" by deciding to negotiate with the government for expanded autonomy instead of waging a battle for an independent Muslim homeland that would liberate minority Muslims from crushing poverty and neglect.
"We've been going around and around wasting money and look where the peace talks have brought us," Kato said. "The roots of the conflict have not been solved."
The infighting within the main 11,000-strong rebel force underscores the complexity of the Muslim unrest that has claimed more than 120,000 lives and stunted growth in the impoverished but resource-rich south of the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines.
The main guerrilla force currently led by Murad Ebrahim split in 1978 from the former Moro National Liberation Front, which dropped its secessionist bid for autonomy and signed a landmark peace accord with Manila in 1996. Murad's group dropped its bid for independence last year but demanded a more powerful type of autonomy with greater control over wider territory.
Murad's group said Kato, who used to head one of its largest and most battle-tested commands, resigned last December, citing his age and poor health. But Kato then formed a breakaway group and accused Murad's group of betraying the Muslim cause by going for autonomy instead of independence.
"They did that without consulting the Muslims. They cheated," Kato said.
Philippine officials have expressed concern over the infighting, which they say casts doubts about the main rebel group's ability to enforce any future accord in peace talks brokered by Malaysia.
Philippine security officials have accused Kato in the past of providing refuge to members of the Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiyah, the small but brutal Abu Sayyaf group and Filipino militants like Usman Basit who have been sought by U.S. and Philippine authorities in connection with deadly bomb attacks.
"They have stained my names with all these allegations of bombing malls and bus terminals," Kato said. "These are all big sins and un-Islamic. I have no contact with al-Qaida.""Who are the real terrorists?" he asked. "They are government troops who drop bombs anywhere even if there are civilians."
August 14, 2011 – Combined forces of the 44th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) attacked the troops of the 113th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (BIAF – MILF) in Barangay Lakiki, Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte yesterday.
The attack was erupted at around 5am while BIAF – MILF fighters were performing Subuh prayers and Fasting in the Holy Month of Ramadhan.
One BIAF fighter meted his martyrdom in the ensuing firefight. Gun battle scaled up in the afternoon and the aggressive government forces suffered casualties, a field report said.
AFP helicopter gunships provided support but had not launched any strike as the MILF and Government Ceasefire Committees and the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) imposed ceasefire.
The government and MILF hold on to signed truce since 1997, the year the peace process between the government and MILF started with the end in view of forging a comprehensive and just negotiated political settlement to the decades-old struggle of the Bangsamoro to regain and restore their collective rights to identity, homeland and self-determination.
MILF Ceasefire Committee conveyed its filing of protest on this attack, citing violations to provisions of the ceasefire accord between the government and MILF. It noted that government forces in the Zamboanga Peninsula do not faithfully adhere to the ceasefire accord.
96 families and 47 families were displaced by this government-initiated firefight in Barangay Lakiki and Barangay Cabbunan, respectively.
Le MNLF, Moro National Liberation Front, de Nar Misuari, n’est pas un mouvement islamique.
En 1978 une faction dissidente, refusant l’autonomie, est créée sous le nom de MILF, le Moro Islamic Liberation Front, ceci avec quelques divisions internes, aka 15, Abu Sayyaf …
Depuis le début des pourparlers de paix entre MILF et le Gouvernement Central de Manille en 2007, des groupes se sont formés pour continuer la lutte. Ils demandent un Etat totalement indépendant du GRP, basé sur les terres ancestrales du peuple Moro.
Création du BILF, le Bansamoro Islamic Liberation Front (Bansa = pays).
Nous avons maintenant le BIFF, le Bansamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, sous les ordres du ‘’Kommander Ameril Umbra Kato’’.