United States special forces assist Philippine troops in fight against militants

Jerome Frank
June 12, 2017

On Friday, a US surveillance place was seen flying over Marawi City in the Southern Philippines, where at least 58 members of the country's security forces have been killed amidst intense urban fighting with hundreds of Islamist rebels who seized part of the city late last month.

Interaksyon reported that 13 Philippine Marines have been killed and 40 were wounded after government forces assaulted a terrorist stronghold in the city last Friday.

The U.S. embassy in Manila confirmed that American special forces were involved "at the request of the government of the Philippines".

It said in a statement it was providing Philippine forces with security assistance and training in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

As many as 2,000 civilians remain trapped in the war-torn city, according to the mayor's office, although a Philippine military spokesman put the number closer to 500. An AP journalist reportedly saw a US Navy P3 Orion plane hovering in the skies above Marawi on Friday.

"The United States proudly stands with the Philippines as a longstanding ally, especially as the country confronts challenges associated with terrorism and extremism, including recent attacks in Marawi and elsewhere", Tillerson said in a statement on Philippines' Independence Day.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement USA forces were not participating directly in combat operations as it is prohibited by Philippines law.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernie Abellaon Sunday clarified the "assistance" being provided by United States in the ongoing operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Marawi as only "limited to technical assistance".

The gunmen were using about 100 hostages as human shields, hiding in mosques and utilising an underground tunnel network in the city, making it hard for troops to manoeuvre, he added.

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Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera announced there had been 13 Philippine marines killed in the battle, a setback in the government's quest to retake the city. They said 58 soldiers and policemen, 191 militants and 21 civilians have been killed in the three weeks of clashes.

Tens of thousands have fled Marawi, which is the Catholic country's most important Muslim city, as the fighting ripped through residential neighborhoods, with more than 200,000 displaced people now living in precarious conditions and vulnerable to deadly health risks, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned Friday.

Washington said at the weekend it was providing support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to clear the militants from pockets of Marawi. Military officials believe Hapilon is still in the town.

Maute's husband, Cayamora, was arrested at a police checkpoint in the southern city of Davao on Tuesday.

Officials at a regional security conference in Singapore last week voiced concern over the rising threat from Islamic fighters in Southeast Asia, home to about 15 percent of the world's 1.57 billion Muslims.

Meanwhile the status of two leaders of an ISIS-affiliated militant group, Omar and Abdullah Maute, was unknown on Monday morning, amid reports they'd been killed.

Arevalo said that the AFP can not make the names of the fallen and wounded available until such time that we have informed the next of kin. No further information was available.

Duterte was prompted to declare martial law in the whole Mindanao after Maute fighters laid siege in Marawi City on May 23.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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