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SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines – The largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines handed over a batch of firearms Tuesday as a gesture to reinforce a peace pact stalled by a public outcry over the recent killings of dozens of anti-terror police commandos in a battle with insurgents.
President Benigno Aquino III and Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, leader of the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front, witnessed the handover of 75 assault weapons near a southern rebel stronghold, along with the identification of a first group of 145 guerrillas, who agreed to return to normal life with government promises of support.
The new autonomy deal signed last year after yearslong talks brokered by Malaysia was expected to be a major legacy for Aquino, a reformist leader whose six-year term ends next year.