Palace: PH welcomes help from other countries on Marawi siege

US Special Forces Join Fight Against ISIS in Southern Philippines

It said in a statement on Saturday it was providing Philippine forces with security assistance and training in the areas of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

MalacaƱang said USA participation in the Marawi operations is limited to technical assistance.

A USA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said support included aerial surveillance and targeting, electronic eavesdropping, communications assistance, and training.

In a press briefing, Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera said that USA special forces were helping the army.

On May 23, 400 local militants claiming loyalty to ISIS stormed the southern capital of the Lanao del Sur province with assistance from "about 40 foreign fights", Reuters reported.

The last time the Philippine security forces sustained large numbers of deaths was in 2015, when 44 police commandos were killed in a botched attempt to capture a Malaysian terrorist in the same region. At least 20 civilians and more than 100 rebel fighters have also been killed in the fighting. However, the military continues to battle close to 200 armed terrorists in the Islamic City of Marawi showing signs the battle will not end that soon.

Some civilians have been held as human shields, while others were hiding in their homes with no access to running water, electricity or food.

"A number of militants were taking shelter in the city's mosques, using their characteristic minarets as sniper positions, said Mr. Santos".

Thousands of Philippine soldiers, now advised by US Special Forces and US reconnaissance aircraft, have been battling with several hundred insurgents who overran the city last month, flying black flags of the so-called "Islamic State ('IS')".

The gunmen were using about 100 hostages as human shields, hiding in mosques and utilising an underground tunnel network in the city, making it hard for troops to manoeuvre, he added.

A US P-3 Orion surveillance plane was seen over the town on Friday.

Philippine President Duterte told reporters Sunday the attack on Marawi had been ordered directly by the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Duterte told reporters Sunday that he made a decision to declare martial law in the southern third of the country to better stop the gunmen from escaping from Marawi or launching new attacks elsewhere.

"I can not stop my soldiers now - let's finish this war that Islamic State has started". "It does not involve any boots on the ground, nor is there any direct participation in combat operations, a matter prohibited by law".

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.

"Today, as the nation observes Independence Day, we will pay homage to the fallen soldiers of Marawi", presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

Maute joined forces with Isnilon Hapilon, who was previous year proclaimed by Islamic State as its Southeast Asia "emir".

Philippine military leaders have said their troops unexpectedly interrupted plans by the fighters to take over Marawi in a spectacular event to show that IS had arrived in the Philippines and was intent on carving out territory.

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