USA special ops help in fight against Islamist militants in Philippines

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US Special Forces have joined an ongoing battle against ISIS militants in the southern Philippines town of Marawi, following months of tension between Washington and Manila.

The request for USA assistance came eight months after Duterte suggested he would end joint military drills with the us, after President Barack Obama's criticism of the extrajudicial killing of thousands of people in the war on drugs that human rights advocates say has disproportionately targeted the urban poor.

Duterte, asked about USA support in the fight against the Maute, said he was "not aware of that until they arrived".

"At the request of the government of the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are assisting the [Filipino military] with ongoing operations in Marawi", the embassy said.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the Philippines lacks adequate surveillance equipment and asked the US military for "non-combat assistance".

Thirteen marines were killed during a firefight on Friday as they were conducting operations to clear enemy positions. At least 20 civilians and more than 100 rebel fighters have also been killed in the fighting. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis sought to reassure allies in the region, highlighting U.S. efforts to improve information sharing and to train Philippine counterterrorism forces fighting in the south.

A USA embassy spokesperson in Manila told Reuters that, at the request of the Philippines government, special operations forces were helping liberate the town, part of which has been occupied by hundreds of militants since May 23. A U.S. P-3 Orion surveillance plane was seen over the town on Friday.

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There were "strong indications", he added, that two militant leaders might also have been killed. A spokesman for the Filipino army said the USA was only providing "technical support".

Aside from the 13 marines killed in action, Arevalo, disclosed that 40 other government forces were wounded while battling the remaining terrorists occupying several areas in the Muslim-majority city.

Philippine military leaders have said their troops unexpectedly interrupted plans by the fighters to take over Marawi in a spectacular event to show that IS had arrived in the Philippines and was intent on carving out territory.

The Philippines military emphasized the United States is providing technical assistance, and not boots on the ground, in the country.

"We are still validating those reports", he said.

Maute joined forces with Isnilon Hapilon, who was previous year proclaimed by Islamic State as its Southeast Asia "emir".

A CONCERT for a cause dubbed as "One Love One Mindanao Help Marawi" is set to take the stage on Monday, June 12 at Rizal Park in time for the celebration of Independence Day to gather any form of donation to assist the affected residents of the close to three weeks armed conflict in Marawi City.

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