13 marines killed amid battle with militants laying siege to Philippine city

13 marines killed amid battle with militants laying siege to Philippine city

United States special forces are helping Philippine troops retake the southern city of Marawi from hundreds of ultra-radical Muslims who have managed to hold back an entire army brigade for over two weeks.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who came to power a year ago, has taken a hostile stance to Washington and pledged to throw out US military trainers from the Philippines, according to Reuters.

Also on Friday, the Philippine military asked Facebook to close dozens of accounts linked to fighters in Marawi City.

Speaking at a news conference in the southern city, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera said that the new US forces would not be fighting but instead "providing technical support".

Also on Saturday, the USA embassy in the Philippines announced us forces had joined the military in its fight against the Islamic State in the southern Mindanao.

The AFP deployed some 4,000 ground forces backed by attack helicopters and air strikes. Ano said they occupy 10 percent of the city and have positioned snipers in tall buildings.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a USA official said support included aerial surveillance and targeting, electronic eavesdropping, communications assistance and training.

A US P3 Orion surveillance plane was seen flying over the town on Friday, according to local media reports.

The assistance comes after months of strain between the two long-time allies that was stoked by President Duterte's hostility toward Washington and his pledges to throw USA troops out of the country.

The militants have been under siege since rampaging through the southern city on May 23.

News of the technical assistance from the United States comes at a time when the local forces suffered its biggest one-day loss on Friday, when 13 marines were killed.

The latest casualties bring the number of Philippine troops killed in the fighting to 58.

Officials said an estimated 500 to 1,000 civilians are trapped in the built-up area occupied by the fighters, which also came under heavy aerial bombardment on Friday.

"Yes, we can confirm their presence but their participation is limited to intelligence sharing", Herrera said.

A military helicopter flies past a mosque in Marawi City in southern Philippines, May 28, 2017.

The army is also looking into reports that Omar and Abdullah Maute, leaders of the Islamist Maute Group have been killed.

"[The] "Bangon Marawi" is already with the Office of the Executive Secretary awaiting submission to the President", he said. The raid, however pre-empted a plot by hundreds of militants waving Islamic State group-style black flags to capture Marawi and kill Christians, military officials say.


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