Muslim rebels hold 20 hostages in Zamboanga City, Philippines
September 9, 2013 -- Updated 0720 GMT (1520 HKT)
A soldier is helped by comrades after being injured during skirmishes with rebels in Zamboanga City on September 9.
- Officials: Six dead during clashes with Muslim rebels in southern Philippines
- At least 20 people taken hostage in mainly Christian town of Zamboanga City
- Moro National Liberation Front want autonomous region for Muslims
- The MNLF signed 1996 peace deal but some members continue violent struggle
(CNN) -- As many as 400 armed Muslim rebels are holding at least 20 people hostage in a southern Philippine city after coming ashore by boat, authorities said Monday.
Philippine police and armed forces have blockaded the areas of Zamboanga City, a mainly Christian city on the southern coast of Mindanao, where the rebels are holed up, Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar told CNN. She said the rebels had planned to march on the city hall.
City officials hope to talk to the rebels, who are believed to be from the Moro National Liberation Front, to try to negotiate the hostages' release, she said.
The MNLF, a separatist movement founded in 1971 by Nur Misuari with the aim of establishing an autonomous region for Muslims in this mainly Catholic country, signed a peace deal with the central government in Manila in 1996 -- though some of its members have broken away to continue with a violent campaign.
According to a statement issued by Climaco-Salazar, the current crisis began at around 4.30 a.m. local time when government forces clashed with armed rebels heading for the city by boat. Six people, including a policeman, a navy serviceman and four civilians, were killed during the course of these clashes.
The statement added that six districts in this coastal city of 800,000 people have been affected by the "infiltration of alleged MNLF members," with 20 hostages taken in the district of Santa Catalina.
In a televised press conference Monday, a police spokesman said a further 200 people were currently stranded in the city because of the blockade by security forces. They are not being classified as hostages.
No demands have been made by the rebels, he added.
Under the terms of the 1996 agreement, Misuari was named as governor of an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He served until 2001.
Last month Misuari issued a "declaration of independence" for the Moro nation -- referring to Mindanao's indigenous Muslim population -- after complaining that the MNLF had been left out of a recent wealth-sharing agreement with an another insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has fought for decades to set up an independent Islamic state on the resource-rich island of Mindanao.
READ: rebels agree to wealth-sharing deal
CNN's Kathy Quiano contributed to this report.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.