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Philippine Troops Attack Muslim Rebels in South

Government troops and Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines exchanged mortar and machine-gun fire Sunday, despite a pledge by rebel leaders to leave the area.

Witnesses say at least four soldiers were wounded in the clashes with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in North Cotabato province.

MILF rebels began occupying several Christian villages late last month, after the Philippine Supreme Court struck down a government - rebel agreement to create a Muslim homeland in the country's south.

On Thursday, the government gave the rebels 24 hours to vacate Christian villages on the southern island of Mindanao, but rebels say concerns about security is delaying their withdrawal.

Philippine government negotiator Rodolfo Garcia says MILF rebels had come under fire from local militiamen who are armed and trained by the military.

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