Philippines: US Special Forces join fight to end Marawi siege

Philippine National Police Special Action Force personnel man a checkpoint in Marawi city as government troops continue their assault again

Some 13 marines have been killed in fierce fighting with Muslim militants who have laid siege to a Philippines city for almost a month.

Thirteen Philippine marines have been killed in a gun battle with Islamist militants as troops step up an offensive to regain control of a southern city besieged by the terrorists for nearly three weeks.

"This temporary setback has not diminished our resolve a bit", said military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo.

In a statement released Saturday the ministry says that nine others were wounded in the attack Friday night in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province.

Philippine military officials say the violence has left at least 138 militants and 58 government troops dead.

The heavy fighting occurred as police arrested the mother of two brothers leading the militants, who come from different local groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist movement. In 2002, the U.S. helped Philippine authorities track down Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sabaya, who was killed in that operation.

The battle began on May 23 when Maute militants fired at soldiers attempting to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf leader who has been described as the "emir" of Islamic State in Southeast Asia.

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Without confirming the specific request from the Philippines, a Facebook spokesman said the company has "well-established law enforcement channels for governments to contact us about emergencies".

On Friday, the military said it hoped to liberate the city by June 12, Philippines Independence Day.

Philippine military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera confirmed the United States help, adding that the special forces were not fighting, but "providing technical support".

They initially estimated there were about 100 gunmen but later said there were as many as 500, supplemented by foreign fighters from Chechnya, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

A U.S. P3 Orion surveillance plane was seen flying over the town on Friday, media said.

Battle for the city of Marawi now in its third week as thousands flee. "They are just providing technical support", he said. It's unclear how many people remain trapped in Marawi as government troops battle Muslim militants led by the so-called "Maute" group but army officers have put the figure this week at anywhere from 150 to 1,000.

"We have indicated to the Philippines. we stand ready to assist if there is a request", she told reporters.

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