MANILA — In the southern Philippines, at least 55 people have died and more than 65,000 people have fled their homes while scores of hostages remain in the hands of Muslim rebels. Clashes between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have intensified as they entered the seventh day.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines say troops are stepping up their fight in the major port city of Zamboanga against about 200 members of the MNLF.
Armed Forces spokesman, Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan, says the military along with police forces are now carrying out a “calibrated” offensive. But he did not give details of what the measured tactic entails.
Fighting started early Monday morning when the military says it interceded after it learned armed members of an MNLF faction tried to enter Zamboanga to raise a separatist flag at city hall. A faction spokesman has said they wanted to hold a peace rally to drum up support for the creation of an Islamic republic. The military repelled the rebels, who they say took civilians for cover and kept them isolated to five coastal villages on the fringes of Zamboanga.
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