U.S. special forces have joined the battle to crush Islamist militants holed up in a southern Philippines town, officials said on Saturday, as government forces struggled to make headway and 13 marines were killed in intense urban fighting.
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.
"They are not fighting. They are just providing technical support," military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera told a news conference in Marawi City.
The U.S. embassy confirmed it had offered support, at the request of the Philippines government, but gave no details.
A U.S. P3 Orion surveillance plane was seen flying over the town on Friday, media said.
The cooperation between the longtime allies is significant because President Rodrigo Duterte, who came to power a year ago, has taken a hostile stance toward Washington and has vowed to eject U.S. military trainers and advisers from his country.
The seizure of Marawi City on May 23 has alarmed Southeast Asian nations which fear that Islamic State - facing setbacks in Syria and Iraq - is establishing a stronghold on the Philippine island of Mindanao that could threaten the whole region.
About 40 foreigners have fought alongside the Philippine militants in Marawi City, most of them from Indonesia and Malaysia, though some came from the Middle East.
The Philippines military suffered its biggest one-day loss on Friday since 10 troops were killed in...Read More HERE