US spy planes help Philippine troops quell siege

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been battling to retrieve the southern city of Marawi from Islamist militants who seized it and kept it for the last three weeks.

United States special forces are providing support to the Philippine military battling to dislodge Islamist militants in a southern city, the USA embassy said Saturday, as 13 Filipino marines were killed in fresh fighting.

As many as 40 militants used civilians as shields, making it hard for troops to operate, and positioned themselves in the city's many mosques.

"I am not aware of that until they arrived", he told a media briefing when asked about U.S. support to fight the pro-Islamic State militants led by the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City, the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur in the Philippines' South.

"We are saddened with the result. we have fatalities on the government side". "They are just providing technical support".

In Friday's battles, "there were 13 soldiers killed in action", Herrera said at a news conference in Marawi.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that while the remaining militants "continue to put up stiff resistance", government troops have killed at least 91 rebels, whose numbers have been "greatly diminished".

The Philippine military says 13 of its marines have been killed in fighting with Muslim militants.

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.

According to local media reports, a US P-3 Orion surveillance plane was seen flying over the town on Friday.

An estimated 500 to 1,000 civilians are trapped in Marawi.

"If the situation in Marawi in the southern Philippines is allowed to escalate or entrench, it would pose decades of problems", said Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen.

The AFP confirmed getting technical assistance from the US.

A spokesperson for the Philippines military asserted on Saturday that USA military forces were providing logistical and reconnaissance support, but have no "boots on the ground", according to Reuters, confirming a Pentagon statement that United States involvement in the fight was requested by an unnamed agency within Duterte's government.

Ominta "Farhana" Maute, the mother of Abdullah and Omar, was detained with nine other people, including two wounded men, in the town of Masiu.

The arrest came days after her husband, Cayamora Maute, was arrested trying to enter Davao earlier in the week.

Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan, reporting from the Philippine capital of Manila, said that despite Duterte's hostile declarations, the United States military's assistance "comes as no surprise because".

"They are not fighting".

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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