Published: Sat, June 10, 2017
Culture | By Kelly Harrison

US forces supporting Manila in fight against IS

US forces supporting Manila in fight against IS

Thirteen Philippine marines were killed in fierce fighting with Muslim militants who have laid siege to a southern city for almost three weeks in the biggest single-day loss for government forces, the military said Saturday.

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

Colonel Arevalo added the "temporary setback" had "not diminished our resolve a bit".

A Philippines Air Force plane had bombed at least 11 of its own soldiers and wounded several others in a "friendly fire" last month.

"The local terrorist groups are using the mosque; they are entrenched there".

GMA News said the militants, who have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, had been armed with rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices during the clash.

For the past 18 days, boys such as these and their adult commanders have occupied the centre of Marawi, a city of 221,000 people in the southern Philippines.

In a press conference in Marawi on Friday, Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said the military had uncovered 63 specific accounts used by militants that focus on "spreading propaganda messaging and misinformation".

"They are not fighting".

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

Until now there had been no confirmation that the Philippines had sought U.S. support in the battle for Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, which is in its third week.

Gen. Restituto Padilla said by phone, citing a Philippine government policy that bars foreign troops from local combat.

Reporters on the ground spotted a US P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft flying over Marawi City on Friday.

Herrera also said there are "strong indications" that Omarkhayam and Madie Maute, two leaders of the Marawi attack, were killed in separate operations.

FILE PHOTO: Smoke billowing from a burning building is seen as government troops continue their assault on insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City.

Herrera said the number of troopers killed is "part and parcel of our offensive operations".

It would not go into operational details but said the U.S. forces were helping at the request of the Philippine government.

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