Manila – US Special Operations Forces entered Saturday on the line of the Marawi battle in south the Philippines, currently controlled by militants allied to ISIS.
A US embassy spokesperson in Manila told Reuters that, at the request of the Philippines government, special operations forces were helping liberate the town, part of which has been occupied by hundreds of militants since May 23.
“At the request of the government of the Philippines, US special operations forces are assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with ongoing operations in Marawi that helps AFP commanders on the ground in their fight against Maute and ASG militants,” the spokesperson said.
“For security reasons, we are not able to discuss specific technical details of US support for ongoing AFP operations,” the spokesperson added.
The AFP confirmed getting technical assistance from the US.
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera spoke about the presence of US forces in the battle, but told a news conference on Saturday: “They are not fighting. They are just providing technical support.”
According to local media reports, a US P-3 Orion surveillance plane was seen flying over the town on Friday.
The Philippines’ army is trying to oust hundreds of fighters who have sworn allegiance to ISIS after entering the city of Marawi, located in the south of the Philippines. There are around 200,000 people living in the city.
The Filipino military asserts that the militants currently occupy only around 10 percent of the city.
The military also said it is aiming to end the siege by Monday, the Philippines’ independence day.
In Friday’s battles, “there were 13 soldiers killed in action,” Herrera said at a news conference in Marawi.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said that, apart from the 13 soldiers who perished, 40 others were wounded in “close quarter combat” in the village of Madaya in Marawi.