The Philippine military authorities said on Friday a top wanted rebel leader has reportedly been killed in a recent military combat operation, local media reported Saturday.
Umbra Kato, a sub-commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim rebel group, was killed in skirmishes with government troops in Maguindanao province last week, the on-line news network INQUIRER.Net said.
Colonel Marlou Salazar, chief of the Army's 601st Infantry Brigade, said they are verifying the intelligence reports on the death of Kato, on whose head the government promised a reward of 10 million pesos (212,766 U.S. dollars).
But the on-line report quoted the rebel leadership as saying that Kato was not dead.
Kato was listed by the government as a top wanted suspect after guerrilla soldiers under his command allegedly trashed Christian villages in Mindanao region soon after the peace progress between the rebel group and the government tumbled over a major blocking stone in August when the country's Supreme Court suspended the signing of a key agreement to the final peace accord.
The independence-minded MILF, with 12,000 guerrilla fighters, accused the government of lacking the sincerity to push forward the peace negotiation after the Arroyo administration decided to dissolve the peace talks panel in the wake of Kato soldiers' atrocities.