U.S. special forces are assisting the Philippines military to end the ongoing siege of a town held by ISIS-linked militants, Reuters reported while pointing out a U.S. embassy spokesperson s in Manila.
The representative did not provide details about the level of participation and there is apparently no evidence the U.S. has troops on the ground there. The report said a U.S. surveillance airplane was seen flying over the town, Marawi, on Friday.
“At the request of the government of the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are assisting the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) with ongoing operations in Marawi,” the representative said, according to the report.
As it stands, the combating has actually been extraordinary; while militants have introduced major attacks prior to, never before has any group occupied area in the heartland of the Philippines’ Islamic faith for this long.
Two weeks after the conflict began, at least 178 individuals have been killed and the army is still battling to gain back control with airstrikes and artillery.
The militants, who are believed to be holding a Catholic priest and numerous other hostages, have torched structures and destroyed at least one church. Ano said they occupy 10 percent of the city and have positioned snipers in high buildings.
Much of the city center has been devastated.
The crisis in Marawi, integrated with worries that the Islamic State group is breathing new life into Muslim insurgencies in Southeast Asia, has put the Philippines and the area on edge.
On Friday, when a masked shooter began shooting and burning betting tables in a Manila gambling establishment, terrified patrons immediately assumed an Islamic State siege was underway.
The radical group claimed responsibility for the attack, in which many people died of smoke inhalation, however there has been no proof to back its claim.
Police firmly insist the intention was robbery, and the gunman’s family states he was a dissatisfied gaming addict.
Still, the episode highlighted exactly what House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez referred to as the “unsettling inadequacy” of public security in the capital. The attack, he said, should “serve as a wake-up call” to do something about it.
A security conference this in Singapore attended by defense ministers and specialists from 39 countries produced a flurry of alarmed declarations. Among the topics: a fear that locations like Marawi might become a new base for the Islamic State group as it loses area in the Middle East.
“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. “All of us recognize that if not addressed adequately, it can prove a pulling ground for would-be jihadists.”