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200 Muslim rebels arrive in Manila to sign historic peace pact

Published on Oct 14, 2012 12:52 PM
This file photo taken on Sept 19, 2009 shows a member of the southern Philippine rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), holding a rocket propelled grenade launcher (RPG) as he stands guard at Camp Darapanan in the town of Sultan Kudarat Maguindanao province, on Mindanao island. The leader of the Philippines' biggest Muslim rebel group is due to arrive in Manila on Sunday for a historic visit aimed at ending one of Asia's longest and deadliest insurgencies.-- PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP/AP) - About 200 Muslim guerrillas led by their elusive chief have arrived in Manila for the signing of a preliminary peace pact to end one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies.

The pact's signing on Monday will be witnessed by President Benigno Aquino III and rebel chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, an ageing warrior in his 60s who is setting foot for the first time in Manila's Malacanang presidential palace.

The accord, announced by Mr Aquino a week ago, has won applause from foreign governments and the United Nations as a rare chance to end a rebellion that has killed an estimated 150,000 people since the 1970s.

However, rank-and-file soldiers of the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf), as well as the groups' leaders and independent security analysts, have warned that many obstacles could still derail the peace process.

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