Philippine authorities said Saturday the death toll from clashes between Islamist guerrillas and army soldiers in the southern city of Zamboanga had risen to 52.
Five troops, four civilians and 43 insurgents from the Moro National Liberation Front, which is holding at least 100 hostages, have died in the fighting, the local press reported, citing army sources.
Shootouts and mortar attacks continued Saturday morning despite a ceasefire announced the night before by the government and the rebel fighters in Zamboanga, located on the conflict-torn island of Mindanao.
Most of the city's 800,000 inhabitants are Christian.
"We want a peaceful solution so we don't lose more lives unnecessarily. We've taken all the steps to avoid a bloody confrontation. But the agreement is that if they stop shooting, we'll also stop shooting," Philippine Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin said.
At least 66 people have been wounded in the fighting, including a Red Cross worker, while more than 62,000 people have had to be relocated to some 20 evacuation centers, according to non-governmental organizations.
Philippine police announced the deployment to the area of an additional 120 officers to support the nearly 300 soldiers who are battling between 100 and 400 MNLF insurgents.
A curfew is in effect at night, classes have been canceled and offices remain closed, although gas stations, markets and pharmacies were open for business.
The fighting in Zamboanga comes a month after MNLF chief Nur Misuari declared the independence of Mindanao and other southern Philippine islands and complained that his group had been excluded from talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a splinter group formed in 1984. EFE