MARAWI, Philippines (Kurdistan24) – The US is providing “technical assistance” to the Philippines to end a battle with militants linked to the Islamic State (IS), a Philippines military official said on Saturday.
Since May 23, armed forces have been fighting Maute insurgents linked to IS who have besieged large swaths of the city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao.
A US embassy spokesperson in Manila said special forces were helping the Philippines military liberate the town.
Philippines military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera confirmed the US assistance.
“They are not fighting,” he told a news conference. “They are just providing technical support.”
The assistance comes after relations between the long-time allies were strained following Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s hostility toward Washington.
President Duterte even threatened to throw US troops out of the country.
Washington deployed special forces in the country in 2002 “to train and advise” Philippine elements who were fighting Abu Sayyaf militants, according to Reuters.
The program was halted in 2015, although a small portion of US forces remained for “logistics and technical support.”
The clashes in Marawi began following a raid on the hideout of a leading Abu Sayyaf militant, Isnilon Hapilon, who pledged loyalty to IS nearly three years ago.
The Maute insurgents strive to gain control over the country, similar to IS’ influence in Iraq and Syria.
Nearly 2,000 civilians remain trapped in the area under the group’s control after a majority of the city’s 200,000 inhabitants fled.
Meanwhile, at least 100 people have been killed in recent clashes, including civilians and Maute militants.