56 dead as Filipino troops attack to end rebel standoff

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines: Philippine officials say government troops have started to battle their way into coastal villages in the south held by Muslim rebels with scores of hostages to end a six-day standoff that has left 56 people dead.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said Saturday government forces surrounding about 200 fighters from a Moro National Liberation Front rebel faction have started to retake some of the rebel-held areas and clear roads in coastal villages in Zamboanga city.

A government trooper aims his rifle as fighting continues with Muslim rebels Saturday Sept. 14, 2013 at Zamboanga city in southern Philippines. Photo:- AP/RSS

President Benigno Aquino III says more firefights are expected but assured thousands of displaced villagers at a sports complex in Zamboanga city that the rebels’ capability to sow trouble has been degraded and the government was working to end the crisis soon.

The standoff has sent more than 60,000 residents fleeing from homes.