Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at a training camp in 2012. Pic: AP.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines says it has formed a political party as it turns away from a decades-long rebellion after signing a peace pact with the government.

Mohagher Iqbal, a leader of the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said Tuesday that his rebel group’s new political organization, the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, would be used as a springboard to contest leadership of a more powerful Muslim autonomous region to be established in the south of the largely Catholic Philippines.

With the political party, Iqbal says the rebels “will continue the struggle, but no longer with arms.”

The rebels signed an autonomy deal with the government on March 27 to end years of fighting that has killed tens of thousands and held back progress.