Philippines and Muslim rebel group sign peace deal

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels shout "Allah akbar" (God is great) while gathered inside their camp as thousands of members and local residents arrive for a a rally in support of the peace agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government at Camp Darapanan in the town of Sultan Kudarat in southern island of Mindanao on March 27, 2014. AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

MANILA: The Philippine government has signed a peace accord with the country's largest Muslim rebel group, formally ending decades of conflict in parts of a southern region.

President Benigno Aquino III and rebel leaders witnessed the signing Thursday in the presidential palace in Manila.

Talks on the deal began in 2001 and a cease-fire has been in place since 1997.

The agreement will create an autonomous Muslim region in a large part of the southern Mindanao region.

The signing is a major political victory for Aquino midway into his six-year term, but much work remains to ensure the accord's full implementation.

Mindanao is home to other insurgent groups, at least one of which has vowed to keep fighting.





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