US forces back Philippine troops in Islamist held city

12 June, 2017, 18:54 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez

As the fighting intensifies, the United States said on Saturday that its special forces were providing technical support to the Philippine military in Marawi City.

Thousands of Philippine soldiers, advised by U.S. special forces, are locked in fierce combat with hundreds of insurgents who overran Marawi city on May 23, flying black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group and using up to 2,000 civilians as human shields.

The government had earlier said the unrest had left 20 civilians, 134 militants and 39 government troops dead.

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.

The Philippine military says 13 marines have been killed in fierce fighting with Muslim militants who have laid siege to southern Marawi City.

The American forces were stationed per the Philippines' request to help defeat Abu Sayyaf, military officials added; ISIS past year pronounced the leader of Abu Sayyaf the "emir" of Southeast Asia, according to Reuters.

Security officers are verifying reports that Maute brothers Omar and Abdullah, founding chieftains of the group, were among those killed over the weekend as government forces closed in on the core group that is trying to carve out an IS enclave in Mindanao.

"We also have information that we received recently that actually the Maute brothers and Hapilon, they have a line connected to ISIS, particularly al-Baghdadi, which also incited them to attack Marawi", he said.

The U.S. embassy confirmed it had offered support, at the request of the Philippines government, but gave no details.

'For security reasons, we are not able to discuss specific technical details of U.S. support for ongoing military operations, ' it added. It's unclear how many people remain trapped in Marawi as government troops battle Muslim militants led by the so-called "Maute" group but army officers have put the figure this week at anywhere from 150 to 1,000.

US Special Forces have joined an ongoing battle against ISIS militants in the southern Philippines town of Marawi, following months of tension between Washington and Manila. Ominta Romato Maute, who is also known as Farhana, was arrested with two wounded men and several women with assault-style rifles and other weapons in Masiu town in Lanao del Sur province, officials said.

But Padilla said that even if the conflict in Marawi would end, it would not mean that martial law would be immediately lifted because the extremists could have a presence in other areas of Mindanao, and the security of the entire island must be ensured.

Military officials in the country said that a United States Navy aircraft provided surveillance for the local troops as the battle continued in Marawi on Friday.

The State Department on Sunday honored the relationship between the US and the Philippines, pointing to "shared democratic values" between the two nations. However, RT has received reports of that the fighters have been bolstering their ranks with local recruits and foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen, India, and Chechnya.


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