President Benigno S. Aquino III, his vice president and the secretaries of defense and interior came to Zamboanga City to develop a strategy to deal with rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front who have attempted to take over the city, The New York Times reported.
Several hundred Muslim MNLF fighters attempted to raise their flag at City Hall and declare their independence after invading the city in boats Monday, police said.
In the ensuing battles with police and military, the rebels took residents hostage in several neighborhoods and are in a standoff with government forces.
The dead and wounded include civilians, police and military forces.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the bodies of 21 rebels were recovered and another 26 were reported killed.
More than 100 residents are being held hostage, the BBC reported.
The fighting has displaced about 62,000 people as police and soldiers attempt to clear the remaining rebels, estimated at about 100 by the military, from the neighborhoods.
More than 400 homes have been burned in the fighting and parts of the city are impassable, the British broadcaster said.
The airport has been closed for five days and commercial ships have been asked to move away from the docks.
Vice President Jejomar Binay is scheduled to hold talks with the rebels in hopes of ending the standoff.
Fighting was to be suspended under a cease fire agreement reached Friday night, but Defense Secretary Voltaire Guzman said rebels violated it before it went into effect at midnight.
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