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Philippine Troops Clearing City Attacked by Rebels

Smoke billows at the site of fighting between government soldiers and Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines, Sept. 8, 2013.
Philippine troops conducted house-to-house raids Wednesday in what they hope is a final push against rebels who took over parts of a key southern city.

About 200 fighters linked to the Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF, seized parts of Zamboanga City 10 days ago, taking scores of civilians hostage.

The fighting has been some of the worst in years for the southern island of Mindanao, which is home to a decades-old insurgency that has killed around 120,000 people.

So far, the military says it has killed 86 rebels and captured dozens of others. But at least 11 soldiers and four civilians have died in the fighting. About 100,000 people have been displaced.

The military on Wednesday warned the remaining 30 to 40 rebels still hiding in the area to surrender, or risk being killed in the ensuing operation.

The MNLF has long pushed for greater autonomy in the mainly Muslim south. The group signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996. 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.