IT was Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters founder Ameril Umbra Kato who ordered his men to kill all the police commandos in sight when they came to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir at Mamasapano in Maguindanao last Sunday, a police officials said on Thursday.
“It was Kato who gave the order to his men and members of the MILF involved in the massacre of SAF commandos to kill them all,” said a ranking military intelligence officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Leave no one alive and take all their firearms, ammunition and personal belongings,” the official quoted Kato as ordering his BIFF guerillas.
An Army colonel, who also asked not to be identified, confirmed the information and said some BIFF guerrillas shot dead wounded commandos who were still alive after the government troops withdrew from their encampment.
“[The BIFF] executed them,” the official said. “The barbarism of these men is beyond human nature.”
He said the rebels were “even dancing and firing their new loot in the air if not on the already mutilated bodies of the police commandos.”
“These BIFF and MILF fighters involved in the massacre are brothers, cousins and relatives. They live in one community harboring criminals and terrorists such as Marwan and Usman,” the official said.
Kato, who is believed to be 69 years old, used to be the commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 105th Base Command, but he and his men splintered from the separatist group in 2008 because they opposed the peace talks the MILF was pursuing with the government.
Kato himself was the subject of a military operation, similar to the Mamasapano debacle, but with less unfortunate results.
On January 28, 2014, the military unleashed artillery fire on Kato’s stronghold in Maguindanao as part of “Operation Dark Horse” which aimed to capture him.
The operation involved the Army’s 602nd, 601st and 2nd Mechanized Brigades, especially 40th and 7th Infantry Battalions, both component units of the 602nd Infantry Brigade.
The operation was launched shortly after the government and MIL signed in Kuala Lumpur an agreement on the normalization annex of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement and the campaign was conducted in coordination with the MILF.
The operation lasted for three more days and 9,465 families, or 35,334 people, were displaced due to the fighting in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Rajah Buayan, Datu Piang in Maguindanao and Pikit in North Cotabato.
This military claimed they had killed Kato in the repeated artillery bombardment, but when it became clear that Kato was still alive and had fled the area, the Armed Forces ended Operation Darkhorse.
Government troops suffered only one fatality and 20 injured while the BIFF sustained 52 fatalities, 49 injuries plus 101 more captured.
Although they did not capture Kato, the military said government troops lowered the BIFF’s morale with the capture of at least four strategic BIFF camps.