18 killed in Philippine standoff
Manila: Eighteen people were killed and about 40 others wounded in the ongoing conflict between government troops and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the Philippine city of Zamboanga, a military official said Friday.
Among those killed included 11 MNLF members, Xinhua reported citing armed forces spokesperson Brig Gen Domingo Tutaan.
Two soldiers were killed in the conflict, including a former MNLF fighter who was integrated into the armed foces in 1998 as part of the 1996 peace agreement signed by the government and the MNLF.
Tutaan said three policemen and two civilians were also killed.
"We are still there, containing them (MNLF rebels)," he said.
The clash between government troops and the MNLF in Zamboanga city entered its fifth day Friday.
Nearly 200 MNLF rebels took about 160 to 180 hostages in Zamboanga City Monday after government troops prevented them from raising their flag at the city hall.
The MNLF used to be the largest Muslim rebel group seeking a separate state in Mindanao until it dropped secessionist demand and settled for limited autonomy under a signed agreement in 1996.
But many of its guerrillas held on to their firearms and periodically staged rebellions in the past, complaining the government has reneged on its promise to fully develop impoverished Muslim regions.
MNLF`s leader Nur Misuari opposed the peace deal by the government with the currently dominant Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
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