ZAMBOANGA, Philippines — About 200 Muslim rebels, enraged by a broken peace deal with the Philippine government, held scores of hostages as human shields Tuesday in a standoff with government forces that dragged on for a second day with no solution in sight.
More battle-ready troops and police were flown to the southern port city of Zamboanga in a bid to end the crisis. Troops have surrounded the Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas and their hostages in four coastal villages since the crisis broke out Monday.
The rebels fired two mortar rounds near the main port Tuesday, prompting authorities to order vessels to dock elsewhere. Sporadic exchanges of fire continued and some houses went up in flames in rebel-held villages, forcing more residents to flee. Helpless villagers lit candles on a sidewalk in a plea for peace to return.
Zamboanga, a commercial hub and a gateway to the south, was virtually shut down with the suspension of most air flights and ferry services. Communities near the clashes resembled a war zone with armored troop carriers lining streets, troops massing at a school, and snipers atop buildings.