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US Joins Battle as Philippines Takes Losses in Besieged City

The news that USA special forces were assisting Philippine soldiers broke out when a US-P3 Orion was hovering the city on Saturday and it caught the attention of many residents.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the island to help combat the militants.

Another 16 Marines were wounded the following day in an operation to retake Mapandi Bridge, a key entrance leading to the city's center.

She added that "the USA government continues to work with the AFP to increase intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities through security assistance and training".

However, many were still asking if the Philippine military sought the permission of the president to allow the USA special forces assistance in the on-going fierce battle in Marawi. A U.S. P-3 Orion surveillance plane was seen over the town on Friday.

The move comes as a surprise given the strained relationship between the two countries.

Mr Duterte has chafed at USA criticism of his narcotics war, which has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings of drug users and other criminals both by police and vigilantes.

However, the request for assistance reveals just how significant the conflict is in Marawi.

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The Palace is deeply saddened by the news on the 13 Marines killed in action during a firefight in Marawi City.

"The government is also supplying heavy artillery fire, air strikes and bombing runs". Around 60 Filipino troops, as well as at least 20 civilians, perished in the fight. "Numerous civilians or residents in this community have fled", said Santos.

The military also said it is aiming to end the siege by Monday, the Philippines' independence day.

Officials say that foreign nationals are among the militants in Marawi, with the list of countries and territories including Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen, India and Chechnya.

At the heat of the Marawi fight, authorities arrested the matriarch of the Maute brothers late Friday in Barangay Tamboro Cormatan in Masiu, Lanao del Sur while trying to evade police and military cordon, police said. Government numbers now put the extremists' losses at 158 killed and nine captured.

The military said the United States is providing technical support to end the siege of Marawi by fighters from the so-called Maute group, which took over large parts of the city late last month. According to the BBC, the reports come from radio chatter intercepted from jihadis suggesting that the Maute brothers are dead.

The seizure of Marawi on 23 May by hundreds of fighters who swore allegiance to Islamic State, including dozens from neighbouring countries and the Middle East, has fuelled concern that the ultra-radical group is gaining a foothold in South-East Asia.

The total loss for government forces is now at 58, with the ISIS-linked militants' losses being estimated at 138.



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