Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

US spy planes help Philippine troops quell siege

US spy planes help Philippine troops quell siege US spy planes help Philippine troops quell siege
Ellis Copeland | 12 June, 2017, 15:05

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.

The seizure of Marawi City has alarmed Southeast Asian nations which fear Islamic State, facing setbacks in Syria and Iraq, is establishing a stronghold in Mindanao that could threaten the whole region. In a move that stunned human rights groups, Trump asked Duterte to visit him at the White House.

It follows nearly three weeks of door to door fighting after hundreds of Islamist militants overran the Marawi city, using civilians as human shields.

At least 20 civilians and around 138 terrorists have also died.

But the Philippine military said on Saturday US forces were providing technical assistance without having "boots on the ground".

The embassy told CNN it would not provide further details about the US support due to "security reasons," but added USA special operations forces have provided assistance in response to Philippine military requests for years.

The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern province of Mindanao shortly after the town was attacked. Manila said this was technical assistance and there were no USA "boots on the ground".

Reporters covering the Marawi siege has captured on video a US P3 Orion surveillance plane flying here Friday, but Herrera refused to comment on the goal of the said activity.

Marawi is not the only Filipino city to have come under attack this month.

The four killed had been arrested along with the mother of the Maute brothers who head the terrorist group fighting in Marawi.

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The military on Friday said the U.S. has been providing technical assistance to Philippine forces in a bid end the siege in Marawi City.

Philippines correspondent David Santos, who is now less than five kilometers from the fighting, said the progress of government forces has been slowed by concerns over civilians caught in the crossfire.

The two were detained on suspicion of providing financial and other support to their children who are involved in the fighting in Marawi, officials said.

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

Iqbal Hussaini, a criminal who trained at a militant camp, said that the "Malawi siege has reinvigorated Indonesian jihadists".

"We are still awaiting confirmation", he said.

USA involvement follows several months of strained relations between the two long-time allies.

"You are a good man", Trump told Duterte, according to a copy of the transcript published by The Intercept.

"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.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement United States forces were participating directly in combat operations, which is prohibited by Philippines law.

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