Published: Sun, June 11, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Philippine military confirms US forces assisting local troops to end city siege

Philippine military confirms US forces assisting local troops to end city siege

Philippine marines were conducting a house-to-house search for militants allied with the Islamic State group who are still occupying parts of Marawi when the battle erupted Friday, said Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesman for the Philippine army's 1st Infantry Division.

U.S. Special Operations Forces are now actively assisting the Philippines in its attempt to battle ISIS-linked militants, according to the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

"We don't have adequate surveillance equipment, so we asked the United States military for assistance".

The spokesperson gave no details of the United States involvement.

Before the confirmation, a US spy plane was seen flying over Marawi.

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On its website, the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines in May described "12 days of training in the Philippine summer heat" involving Philippine troops and members of the U.S. armed forces. "American forces have always been present - although they are there primarily for technical and intelligence support".

The US and the Philippines have been allies for decades. Their relationship provided Washington with a strategic foothold in Asia, and offered Manila a shield against China's assertiveness in the region.

When asked why the Maute group, now locked in battle with government forces in Marawi City, made a decision to follow Wahhabism, the Singaporean security analyst said this is because its founders, Omar and Abdullah, both studied in the Middle East and brought home the ideology.

Separately, the Philippines military has said 13 marines have been killed in the fighting, The Associated Press reported.

"We are still awaiting confirmation", Herrera told a news conference in Marawi City.

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Lt-Col Herrera said yesterday there were "strong indications" that two leaders of the Marawi attacks - brothers Omarkhayam and Madie Maute, have died in an air strike. The latest fighting has claimed the lives of 13 Philippine marines.

The Maute group reportedly joined forces with Isnilon Hapilon, one of the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf jihadist group, who IS proclaimed as its Southeast Asian emir. The bridge leads to the city proper.

"This is an enduring partnership, enduring commitment to fight global terrorism", he said.

Farhana was nabbed along with two wounded Maute fighters after their vehicles were intercepted in the town of Masiu, Lanao del Sur - some 36 kilometers from the warzone - ARMM Regional Police Director Reuben Theodore Sindac was quoted by ABS-CBN news as saying.

While the military now controls most of Marawi, some 100 gunmen are still holed up in a corner of the city where they have been using buildings and mosques as bunkers.

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