US joins battle as Philippines takes losses in besieged city

A pall of smoke rises from a Philippine Air Force strike on a suspected ISIS bunker in Marawi

A pall of smoke rises from a Philippine Air Force strike on a suspected ISIS bunker in Marawi

USA special forces have joined an operation to oust Islamic State-affiliated militants who have laid siege to a city in the southern Philippines.

A U.S. P3 Orion surveillance aircraft is seen flying over the town of Marawi city, as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who has taken over large parts of the city, Philippines June 9, 2017.

As the fighting intensifies, the United States said on Saturday that its special forces were providing technical support to the Philippine military in Marawi City.

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

Lt. Col. Joar Herrera said they are still validating the number of the wounded troopers but confirmed 13 members of the Philippine Marines were killed in one day including the company commander who conducted clearing operations which found P52.2 million cash and P27 million-worth of checks in a house in Marawi City.

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"There was an intense, house-to-house fire fight between the marines and the local terrorist group", Jo-Ar Herrera, army spokesman, told a televised press conference.

GMA News said the militants, who have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, had been armed with rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices during the clash.

Up to 1,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in an area of the city controlled by at least 200 militants. "American forces have always been present - although they are there primarily for technical and intelligence support".

In Marawi, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera confirmed the US assistance, telling a news conference: "They are not fighting".

Speaking at the end of her and Mr Turnbull's visit to Singapore, Defence Minister Marise Payne said the Marawi battle was a reminder of what "could prospectively come to pass" if the region was not careful.

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USA troops will not fight, but provide technical support, Philippines military say.

Until now there had been no confirmation USA forces were assisting in the battle for Marawi City, now in its third week.

The Philippine military has said the aim was to end the siege by Monday, the Philippines' independence day.

The latest casualties bring the number of Philippine troops killed in the fighting to 58.

Philippine military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera said USA personnel were "just providing technical support".

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