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Rebel leaders, Filipino officials sign landmark peace deal

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon October 15, 2012
  • NEW: The new accord can "seal a genuine, lasting peace," Aquino says
  • Rebels have been fighting for independence from the Philippines for years
  • The agreement is to create a new autonomous region administered by Muslims
  • The region in the southern Philippines will be called Bangsamoro

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

(CNN) -- Filipino government officials and Muslim rebel leaders signed a landmark peace deal Monday aimed at ending a long-running insurgency in the nation's troubled south.

The provisional accord paves the way for a new autonomous region to be administered by Muslims in Mindanao, according to President Benigno Aquino III, who met with the rebels at the presidential palace in Manila.

"Today, we sign a framework agreement that can finally seal a genuine, lasting peace in Mindanao," Aquino said in a speech.

The deal sets up mechanisms to tackle issues such as power structure and revenues in the southern region, which will be named Bangsamoro. The new region is expected to replace the current one by 2016, when the president's term ends, according to officials.

Landmark peace deal in Philippines

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has fought for decades to set up an independent Islamic state in southern Philippines, having been blamed for a host of attacks and skirmishes that have left tens of thousands dead.

Yet even as this violence unfolded, rebels have been negotiating for 15 years with officials from the Manila-based government.

Aquino has said the agreement "brings all former secessionist groups into the fold," and that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is no longer seeking to form a new nation.

The rebel group's chairman, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, was present at the agreement's signing. Murad's group is estimated to have 12,000 members, but military sources say it may have splintered when government troops conducted offensives in 2000.

The new name of Bangsamoro "symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation," according to Aquino.

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