Friday, September 16, 2011

Philippine Muslim rebels extend ultimatum on renegade leader

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 16, 2011) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front has again extended its ultimatum on a renegade leader to return to its fold.

Ameril Umra Kato has split with the MILF last year and formed his group called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement after accusing their chieftain Murad Ebrahim of abandoning their struggle for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

The MILF previously said it will decide on Kato’s fate after the fasting month of Ramadan. But it failed to come out with the decision and said it was trying to win back Kato’s loyalty to the MILF which is currently negotiating peace with Manila.

The rebel group has given Kato until September 26 to rejoin the MILF, but the renegade commander rejected efforts to lure him back, saying his group would pursue independence in the southern Philippines.

The MILF said its ultimatum was based on the recommendation of the Ulama Council in Mindanao.
“Upon the recommendation of the Ulama Council, the MILF Central Committee has given Ameril Umbra Kato two weeks to reconsider his decision to form another armed group and return to the MILF immediately and after which, if he fails, he would be declared outside of the coverage of the peace process and the ceasefire,” the MILF said.

Kato has several times criticized Ebrahim for talking peace with the Aquino government which insisted on granting wider autonomy to some four million Muslims in Mindanao.

He accused Ebrahim of abandoning their original demand for an independent state and opted instead to negotiate with Manila for a Muslim sub-state in the mineral-rich, but strife-torn southern region.

Kato is facing a string of criminal charges in connection to the series of attacks that he led after the failed signing of the Muslim homeland deal in 2008 between the MILF and the government. The Supreme Court declared the accord as unconstitutional and the aborted deal triggered a series of deadly attacks in Mindanao.

On Wednesday, Kato's forces clashed with MILF rebels in Maguindanao's Datu Piang town, leaving four people dead on both sides. Their groups have previously clashed over a piece of land in the province. (Mindanao Examiner)

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