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Philippine President Urges Muslim Rebels to Surrender

Members of the Philippine Marines hold their weapons aboard a truck as they block a road during fighting between government soldiers and Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines, Sept. 15, 2013.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino is urging the remaining Muslim rebels in the southern city of Zamboanga to surrender and avoid further bloodshed.

His message Thursday to fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF, came as fresh fighting claimed the lives of eight rebels and one soldier. More than 100 have died and more than 100,000 have been displaced from their homes.

Aquino, who has said he will stay in the area until the crisis is over, also announced a $90 million reconstruction fund for Zamboanga.

Officials say life is starting to return to normal in Zamboanga, even as the military continues to hunt the last of the Muslim rebels who stormed the city earlier this month.

Many downtown businesses and banks reopened and the local airport Thursday welcomed its first commercial flights in days.

The MNLF has long pushed for greater autonomy in the mainly Muslim south, where a four-decade-long insurgency has killed at least 120,000 people.

The group signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996 that led to the creation of an autonomous region in Mindanao. But some of its members continued to fight, claiming Manila did not hold up its end of the deal to develop the impoverished, rural region.