USA aids Philippines in fighting ISIS allies


United States special forces are providing support to the Philippine military battling to dislodge Islamist militants in a southern city, the USA embassy said yesterday, as 13 Filipino marines were killed in fresh fighting. "It instead primed up our determination to continue our prudent advances to neutralize the enemy, save the innocent lives trapped in the fight, and set the conditions for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi".

Thirteen Philippine marines were killed in a gun battle with Islamist militants in Marawi City, the military said Saturday, as the United States joined an offensive to break a terrorist siege of the southern city.

A US Embassy spokesman said: 'At the request of the government of the Philippines, US special operations forces are assisting the (Philippine military) with ongoing operations in Marawi'.

He said Friday's deaths brought the number of government troops killed in the conflict to 58. It said it had an additional 300 to 500 troops in the country to support regular training and activities, without giving further details.

At least 138 militants and 20 civilians had also been killed, the government said.

The AFP confirmed getting technical assistance from the US.

U.S. Navy P-3 Orion surveillance plane flies over the southern Philippine city of Marawi on Friday as Philippine government forces battle Islamic mili.

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines had said the United States was providing technical assistance to end the siege of Marawi City but added it had no troops on the ground.

The request for USA assistance came eight months after Duterte suggested he would end joint military drills with the US, after former 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.

Philippine troops have been battling the Maute group, which claims allegiance to the Islamic State, in Marawi for more than two weeks. It was discontinued in 2015, but a small presence remained for logistics and technical support. Mindanao was put under martial law to prevent the hostilities from spreading.

Washington deployed special forces soldiers to Mindanao in 2002 to train and advise Philippine units then fighting Abu Sayyaf militants. Officials are still validating the reports, but said there were "strong indications" the two key leaders were dead.

Farhana, who reportedly acts as a financier to her sons, was nabbed together with two injured militants and seven unidentified women was arrested after their vehicle was intercepted at Barangay Kormatan in Masiu town, Chief Supt.

"There was an intense, house-to-house firefight between the marines and the local terrorist group", he told a televised press conference in Marawi City.

The leaders of the Maute Group, brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, as well as Isnilon Hapilon, planned to kill Christians in Mindanao after taking Marawi City, security officials said Sunday.