US Forces Assist Philippines in Marawi Battle

The aircraft flew above rocket-firing Philippine helicopters that struck militant positions, causing plumes of smoke to billow skyward.

Special Operations Forces from the United States are helping the Philippine military kick ISIS militants out of a southern town.

Media reports said a US P3 Orion surveillance plane was seen flying over Marawi on Friday.

As of Saturday, the number of security forces killed in the battle for Marawi stood at 58. Since 2002, the Philippine military and the U.S. special forces have been holding joint military exercises to exchange military tactics and technical expertise to improve their capabilities.

Some 40 marines were wounded in the gun battles that lasted 14 hours, according to military spokesman Colonel Edgardo Arevalo.

There were conflicting reports over the weekend from Duterte and the US Embassy in Manila over whether US support had been requested in the Marawi fight.

The Philippines military said in a statement on Saturday that USA forces are not fighting, but providing technical assistance to end the siege of Marawi City, which is now in its third week.

The Philippines military suffered its biggest one-day loss since 10 troops were killed in a friendly-fire incident on June 1.

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The military said fighting in Marawi City entered its 21st day on Monday, with 191 Daesh-linked militants, 29 civilians and nearly 60 government troops killed.

About 2,000 people are also believed to still be trapped in militant-held areas as insurgents continue to entrench themselves two weeks into the conflict, which saw them take a Catholic priest hostage, open up two jails and destroy many buildings. Fighting the bandits has been made hard because of trapped civilians and the military's concern about damaging property, he said. They move around using bomb-proof tunnels.

The presence of the "Maute-Hapilon-ISIS" link in Marawi, the NDFP-Mindanao said, became the "golden ticket" used by the pro-US generals of Duterte to declare martial law.

The Philippines military said the United States was providing technical assistance to end the siege of Marawi City by fighters allied to Islamic State, which is now in its third week, but it had no boots on the ground.

"I did not realize that it was that bad because now it appears that Baghdadi himself, the leader of the ISIS, has specifically ordered terroristic activities here in the Philippines", Duterte said, without elaborating.

The military has made it their objective to liberate the city by June 12 to coincide with the country's Independence Day.

The heavy fighting occurred as police arrested the mother of two brothers leading the militants, who come from different local groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist movement.

  • Megan Austin