Monday, June 12, 2017


Duterte claims he DIDN'T ask America for help defeating ISIS a day after US special forces arrived in the besieged Philippine city

By Chris Pleasance and Darren Boyle

Daily Mail
June 11, 2017

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has claimed he didn't ask America for help in fighting ISIS militants inside his country.

The outspoken leader said he had no idea US special forces were coming to his aid until they arrived in the besieged city of Marawi yesterday.

Jihadist militants overran the city last month and Duterte's forces have been struggling to regain control ever since, with 13 marines killed there on Sunday alone.

The fundamentalists have been using fortified tunnels to escape government bombardments, anti-tank weapons to halt counter-attacks, and hiding among civilians to use them as human shields.

American special forces arrived in the city on Saturday and have been 'providing technical assistance', according to the US embassy in Manila.

The embassy also said forces were sent at the request of the Philippine government, but Duterte denied this.

The tough-talking leader has been on close terms with President Trump after the pair shared a phone call earlier this year.

Trump had called Duterte to congratulate him on a drug-crackdown in the country which has seen thousands shot dead, many in extra-judicial killings.

Seeking to clarify Duterte's remarks, spokesman Ernesto Arbella said the Philippines and America share an interest in fighting terrorism, and 'the Philippines is open to assistance from other countries if they offer it.'

So far the unrest had left 20 civilians, 134 militants and 39 government troops dead, the government said.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the city, parts of which were reduced to rubble by fighting and government air strikes in an attempt to dislodge the rebels.

Colonel Edgard Arevalo said: 'This temporary setback has not diminished our resolve a bit.

'It instead primed up our determination to continue our prudent advances to neutralise the enemy, save the innocent lives trapped in the fight, and set the conditions for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi.'

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in the Mindanao region, the southern third of the Philippines and home to a decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion.

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

Philippine troops are struggling to defeat hundreds of fighters, who rampaged through Marawi on May 23 flying black flags of ISIS, and have used bomb-proof tunnels, anti-tank weapons and civilians as human shields to fortify their positions.

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

It was among the heaviest fighting in the standoff, according to AFP journalists in Marawi, with the air force supporting ground troops with sustained bombing runs that battered the city.

As the fighting intensified, the US embassy in Manila said American forces were providing assistance to the Filipino troops, although it declined to give details for security reasons.

A US Embassy spokesman said: 'At the request of the government of the Philippines, US special operations forces are assisting the (Philippine military) with ongoing operations in Marawi.'

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

He said Friday's deaths brought the number of government troops killed in the conflict to 58.

'There were intense firefights, house-to-house gunbattles,' said Herrera at a news conference in Marawi.

'We are saddened with the result... we have fatalities on the government side,' he said.

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

The insurgents have so far withstood more than two weeks of air and ground assaults by security forces, with about 2,000 people believed to be trapped in militant-held areas although the military said this amounts to only around 10 percent of the city.

Herrera said the militants' tactics was making it harder for security forces to carry out attacks without causing civilian casualties and hurting religious sensitivities.

'The local terrorist groups are using the mosque, they are entrenched there. They also used civilians as human shields... we are very precise in our operations to avoid collateral damage.'

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