Philippine President Benigno Aquino has vowed to bring criminal charges against a rebel leader for a deadly two-week siege in the south of the country.

The president gave his statement on Sunday as a standoff continued between government soldiers and rebels in the city of Zamboanga, where troops were trying to free around 20 people who were taken hostage.

"Our investigators are making sure that Misuari will be made to answer for all these," Aquino said referring to rebel leader Nur Misuari.

"We now have witnesses who will directly link him to this conflict, and the charges are being prepared by the Department of Justice," he added.

About 200 rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), founded by Misuari, entered Zamboanga, a major trading centre with one million residents, on September 9, and took over several coastal districts, in opposition to an impending peace deal with a rival rebel group.

The military said on Sunday that they were engaged in a close-quarter combat with a few fighters, who were holding at least 20 hostages in one neighbourhood.

One soldier was killed and 10 others were wounded in the past 24 hours, according to the military.

Source: Agencies