Philippine military confirms U.S. forces assisting local troops to end city siege

'Bangon Marawi' EO for signing

'Bangon Marawi' EO for signing

USA special forces are assisting Philippine troops in their operations against Islamic militants in the southern city of Marawi, the US embassy in Manila said in an emailed statement.

"They are not fighting".

Lieutenant-Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman for the Task Force Marawi, said the Americans were providing only "technical support" in the battle and were not involved in the physical fight.

"At the request of the government of the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are assisting the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) with ongoing operations in Marawi", the spokesperson said, according to the report.

The spokesperson did not provide details about the level of involvement and there is reportedly no evidence the US has troops on the ground there.

"There is no direct USA participation in combat, which is prohibited by Philippine law, although our forces involved in training the Philippine military are authorized to defend themselves", the US official said.

The cooperation between the longtime allies is significant because President Rodrigo Duterte, who came to power a year ago, has taken a hostile stance toward Washington and has vowed to eject USA military trainers and advisers from his country.

Philippine troops are struggling to defeat hundreds of fighters, who rampaged through Marawi on May 23 flying black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group, and have used civilians as human shields, bomb-proof tunnels and anti-tank weapons to fortify their positions.

Colonel Herrera revealed that they are now investigating reports that the Maute Group's leaders are among those killed in the fighting.

"There were intense firefights, house-to-house gunbattles", said Herrera at a news conference in Marawi.

"We have indicated to the Philippines. we stand ready to assist if there is a request", she told reporters.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines-Malacañang on Saturday said that President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to issue an executive order for the establishment of a rehabilitation program intended for the besieged Marawi City.

"The key component we saw in the firefight with the marines was how the terrorists are using mosques".

One of those killed was Marines 1Lt.

He said the marines, who were taking part in an operation to rescue about 100 people who are being held hostage by Maute, were targeted by improvised explosive devices set off by the group's fighters.

Reuters notes that at least 200 militants - led by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, both of which have pledged allegiance to ISIS - remain holed up in the city with about 500 to 1,000 trapped civilians.

Speaking at the end of her and Mr Turnbull's visit to Singapore, Defence Minister Marise Payne said the Marawi battle was a reminder of what "could prospectively come to pass" if the region was not careful. Most of the refugees fled to nearby areas such as Iligan City where aid has been brought in by both government and non-government organizations.

Reports from GMA News says the soldiers' encounter with the militants started Friday morning and lasted until the evening. Seized from the suspects were assorted firearms and ammunition.

"Farhana was said to be buying vehicles and firearms for their escape outside Lanao del Sur province", said Chief Superintendent Theodore Sindac, a regional police director.

In this June 9 photo, soldiers prepare for deployment on the outskirts of Marawi city, southern Philippines. The extremists occupied a hospital, jail and other buildings in Marawi City last month.

Ex-mayor Salic and his elder brother, Omar "Solitario" Ali, also a former three-term mayor of Marawi, are among 185 people ordered arrested by the Department of National Defense for alleged involvement in the siege.

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