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Philippine marines killed in fighting with militants

Philippine marines killed in fighting with militants

The militants have been under siege since rampaging through the southern city on May 23.

It's the biggest single-day loss for government troops since they began fighting the militants allied with Islamic State.

Friday's ferocious, street-to-street gunbattles with the militants saw 13 troops killed in a dramatic surge in the toll from the conflict.

On May 24, local terrorist groups called the Maute and the Abu Sayyaf in cooperation with ISIS fighters from Indonesia, Y, men and other middle eastern countries suddenly pounced on the city of Marawi and held it hostage. The U.S. entrance to this conflict was requested by the Philippine government in hopes to expedite the lifting of the siege and train government troops on how to handle urban warfare as well.

The United States and the Philippines have been allies for decades. "They are just providing technical support", Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera said. "We have incurred 13 killed in action", Herrera said at a news conference in Marawi. He reiterated that this assistance is part of the two countries' standing cooperation against terrorism.

About 40 foreigners have fought alongside the Philippine militants in Marawi City, majority from Indonesia and Malaysia, though some came from the Middle East.

More news: Saudi shuts Al Jazeera channel in Qatar row - state media

In more than two weeks of fighting, at least 202 people have been killed: 134 militants, 38 troops, and 30 civilians.

Herrera added that troops had difficulty rescuing trapped civilians since the militants are well-positioned in mosques and are using civilians as human shields.

"As long as we sustain the fight, as long as we are able to destroy the elements of the local terrorist group we can reach that", he said of the June 12 target.

Their involvement comes after months of strain between the two allies stoked by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's hostility towards Washington and his pledges to throw out U.S. troops who have long provided training and assistance.

The announcement of USA help in the embattled southern region comes after Duterte has sought to reduce the Philippines' reliance on the United States and build much closer ties with China and Russian Federation.

In a press briefing Saturday, Philippine Army 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera clarified that US forces were only providing technical support and are not part of clashes on the ground.

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