Death toll climbs as army, militants fight on in the Philippines
September 26, 2013 -- Updated 0412 GMT (1212 HKT)
Soldiers carry the flag-draped coffin of policemen who died at the Zamboanga rebel attack in Mindanao. The coffins arrive at Villamor airbase in Manila on September 25. Fighting between rebels and soldiers in the city has entered its third week.
Deadly fighting in the Philippines
- Fighting has raged between Muslim rebels and soldiers in Zamboanga City
- At least 158 people have been killed, including 13 civilians
- United Nations: The unrest has displaced more than 100,000 people
- Authorities believe about five hostages are still being held by rebels
(CNN) -- At least 158 people have been killed since fighting broke out earlier this month between separatist rebels and soldiers in the Philippines, state news reported Wednesday.
The majority of those killed, 125, were militants from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the government-run Philippines News Agency (PNA) said. Also among the reported dead were 15 members of the military, five from police, and 13 civilians.
The lengthy crisis in Zamboanga City began when large numbers of rebels from the Muslim militant group came ashore more than two weeks ago.
They took roughly 180 people hostage in coastal areas of the city. After attempts to negotiate the hostages' release failed, security forces moved in, resulting in intense bursts of fighting.
The vast majority of the captives have now been freed, but authorities believe the rebels are still holding around five people, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, a military spokesman, said Wednesday.
The unrest has fueled fears of increased instability in a region where the central government is pursuing a new peace plan after decades of violence.
Reporter: Not sure if my home is standing
Philippine forces, rebels resume clash
More than 109,000 people have been displaced in Zamboanga City and close to 19,000 are displaced in Basilan province, according to the United Nations, which described the situation Wednesday as a humanitarian crisis.
Zamboanga City, on the southwestern tip of Mindanao, is a mainly Christian city.
"We are increasingly alarmed by the situation and the growing needs of people caught up with violence," said Luiza Carvalho, U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in the Philippines. "We are particularly concerned for the most vulnerable, especially the well-being of women and children."
Hundreds of houses have caught fire during the fighting. Authorities have accused the rebels of deliberately starting the fires.
The rebels are a faction of the MNLF, a separatist movement founded in 1971 by Nur Misuari with the aim of establishing an autonomous region for Muslims in the mainly Catholic Philippines. The MNLF signed a peace deal with the central government in Manila in 1996, but some of its members have broken away to continue a violent campaign.
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 another insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has fought for decades to set up an independent Islamic state on resource-rich Mindanao.
CNN's Tim Schwarz, Kathy Quiano and Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 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.