Manila: Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines have been fighting since the 1970s for independence or autonomy, with the conflict claiming about 150,000 lives. The main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the government announced Sunday they had agreed a road map for peace. Here are the key dates in the conflict:
1972: President Ferdinand Marcos declares martial law across the country to contain what he says are growing Muslim and communist insurgencies.
Muslim rebels in the southern region of Mindanao quickly create a formal organisation, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by a young scholar named Nur Misuari.
1974: As the MNLF gains strength, Marcos unleashes the military against the rebels. It is the start of intense fighting across parts of Mindanao that lasts for over a decade, a period when most of the 150,000 lives are lost.
1975: The government holds its first meeting with Misuari in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He agrees to explore autonomy as a basis for talks.
1976: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi oversees the signing of the Tripoli Agreement, providing a framework for autonomy in 13 provinces and nine cities in Mindanao.
1978: One of the MNLF’s leaders and fiercest ideologues, Salamat Hashim, splits from the MNLF and vows to press ahead with the fight for an independent Islamic state.
1981: Salamat and Murad Ebrahim, another prominent rebel commander and hardliner, form the MILF.
1986: Marcos is toppled in a ‘people power’ revolution and replaced by Corazon Aquino, who launches peace talks.
1996: The MNLF signs a peace deal with the government of President Fidel Ramos. The MNLF settles for autonomy, and the deal creates the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) encompassing five predominantly Muslim-populated provinces.
1997: The MILF agrees to explore peace talks with the government.
1998: Joseph Estrada wins the presidency and declares an all-out war against the MILF. Estrada’s troops overrun its main camp. Hundreds of people are killed.
2003: Estrada’s successor, Gloria Arroyo, brokers a ceasefire with the MILF to pave the way for peace talks.
2008: Arroyo’s government announces a peace deal that would have given the MILF control over 700 cities and towns. But it falls apart after the Supreme Court declares it unconstitutional. In response, two MILF commanders lead attacks across mainly Christian areas of Mindanao. About 400 people are killed.
August, 2011: Benigno Aquino, who became president in 2010, holds secret talks with MILF chairman Ebrahim in Japan, reinvigorating the peace process. It is the first time a president and MILF chief have held face-to-face talks.
Oct 7, 2012: After many rounds of peace talks in Malaysia, Aquino announces a deal with the MILF to create a new autonomous political region. The MILF says it wants a final peace deal before Aquino steps down in 2016.