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Philippines Soldiers Capture 15 Rebel Strongholds


The Philippine military says it has captured 15 Muslim rebel strongholds and killed more than 100 guerrillas on the southern island of Mindanao in the last four days.

Philippine Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro told reporters Monday that more than 272,000 villagers have been displaced by the fighting.

He said the massive air and ground offensive will not stop until the top leaders of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Force are captured or killed.

The two renegade MILF commanders have attacked several villages on Mindanao island, killing dozens of people and looting and burning homes and farms.

The latest violence was triggered when the Philippine Supreme Court blocked a peace agreement to expand and strengthen a Muslim autonomous zone.

The Supreme Court's move was made at the request of Christian politicians representing areas that could have been affected by the deal.

The MILF's Chief Peace Negotiator, Mohaqher Iqbal, has blamed the breakdown on the government, which he says did not honor its commitments.

Muslim rebels have been carrying out a bloody four-decade insurgency for a separate homeland on Mindanao that has left more than 120,000 people dead.

The MILF and the Philippine government have been negotiating on and off since 1997 on ways to give Muslims more self rule in the southern part of the nation.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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