U.S. special forces aid fight to oust Islamic militants in the Philippines

US forces join Philippine troops to end city siege: media

In a televised press conference earlier on Saturday, Herrera said that 13 Philippine marines had been killed in battles with some 200 insurgents allied to the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group.

US special forces are assisting Philippine troops in their operations against Islamic militants in the southern city of Marawi, the USA embassy in Manila said in an emailed statement. Herrera said 13 marines conducting clearing operations died after an "intense" house-to-house firefight during which they encountered improvised explosive devices and were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades.

At least 138 militants and 20 civilians have also been killed, the government said.

"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.

Both Maute and Abu Sayyaf have declared their allegiance to ISIL.

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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.

"We give premium to the mosques, because this is very symbolic to our Muslim brothers", Herrera said.

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.

"They are not fighting".

Herrera, however, did not say when the terrorists were killed and in which specific operation.

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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".

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

It would not go into operational details but said the USA forces were helping at the request of the Philippine government.

Before the confirmation, a US spy plane was seen flying over Marawi.

Marine Commandant Maj Gen Emmanuel Salamat confirmed the casualties to GMA News website on Saturday (June 10), saying that government troops and militants from the Maute group had been involved in a 16-hour clash in Barangay Lilod Madaya that began at around 3.30am on Friday.

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