Rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) opened fire in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines, at dawn Monday, killing six people, injuring numerous locals and holding 250 civilians hostage, including a pastor and a local church, Open Doors USA reports. The attack was an offshoot from the rebels' longstanding fight for autonomy. Officials said that the MNLF rebels meant to take siege of the Zamboanga City Hall, perch their flag and declare independence. The hostages were being used as human shields as the rebels marched to the City Hall. Although there had been tip-offs days before the skirmish, Zamboanga City mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco was nonetheless surprised. "Their main quest is to declare independence in Zamboanga," she told local media. "This is a non-ARMM [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] territory. We are calling a crisis committee." The rebels attacked a community that was 550 yards away from a church that ministered to Sama and Tausug believers from a Muslim background. Seven communities had reportedly been besieged and about 800 people evacuated and sought refuge in the grandstands. But believers from a Muslim background belonging to the Sama tribe remained trapped in the towns of Rio Hondo, Arena Blanco, Mampang and Talon-Talon. Reports from the ground indicated that the believers were held hostage by the MNLF, if not stranded. "They have gone without food for two days now," said a Christian worker in the area. "MNLF has held hostage a local church." Open Doors heard of two out of 10 Sama believers and their families evacuating safely out of Rio Hondo, a coastal village south of Zamboanga City. In the meantime, Tausug believers in Sta. Catalina, a nearby village, were also displaced, while a number of Muslim Background Believers were hurt from stray bullets and shrapnel. Five of the 250 hostages were released as of Tuesday morning, according to local media. Open Doors conducts seminars and literacy classes in the area.