UK & World News
Philippines: Hostages Used As Human Shield
Rebel fighters have used hostages as a human shield during a stand-off with security forces in the Philippines.
Dozens of citizens were tied together and positioned between the rebels and government soldiers in the port city of Zamboanga, as fighting entered a third day.
The hostages waved white flags and sheets, and shouted "please don't shoot" as snipers positioned on the roof of a residential block fired at troops around 500m away.
The rebels, who belong to a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), have brought much of Zamboanga to a standstill.
Schools, shops and offices have been closed, and flights and ferry services suspended, while an estimated 12,000 people have been displaced.
Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said government soldiers were "not launching an offensive", adding: "Our troops are only returning fire."
"Our mission is to contain (the rebels), not to rescue hostages," he said.
The rebels are attempting to declare an independent state a year after opposing a deal between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government.
That agreement led to a new autonomous region and gave the rival group more political control.
Isabelle Climaco Salazar, the mayor of Zamboanga, urged the rebels to free their hostages and agree to talks with the government.
"This is no longer a local problem, this is an international problem," she said.