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13 Philippine marines killed in clash with Daesh-linked terroris

United States extends intelligence and technical support in Marawi City

Image Credit: REUTERS

Evacuated students shows their drawings about what they and other Marawi residents experienced before fleeing the city still under siege during a school day at Pantar elementary school in Lanao Del Norte, Philippines.

Manila: Thirteen Marines were killed and 40 more wounded in a 16-hour clash between government troops and four Filipino-Muslim terror groups in the country’s south that have been linked to Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), despite the extension of intelligence and technical support by the United States, sources said.

Thirteen soldiers of the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 7 and MBLT 5 were killed as they encountered an undetermined number of Filipino-Muslim terror groups in Lilod Madaya village between 3.30am and 6.30pm on Friday, Major-General Emmanuel Salamat, Marine Commandant, said in a report on Saturday.

Among those killed was First Lieutenant Frederick Sabillano, commander of the group that recovered 52 million pesos (Dh4.33 million) and 27 million pesos (Dh 2.25 million) worth of checks in Mapandi village earlier this week, Salamat said, adding that four terrorists had also been killed during Friday’s clash. There were reports that one of them was Ommah Khayam Maute of the four-year old Daesh Ranao Group.

A total of 217 people have died since the conflict began on May 23. Terrorist fatalities now stand at 138, while the government has lost 58 personnel and 21 civilians have been killed, Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, said in a summary report.

Some 2,000 people have been rescued from the war zone, with the ongoing clashes having displaced 35,000 of 200,000 residents, Padilla said. He, however, did not reveal the fate of a Catholic priest and 240 more people who were being held hostage.

Noting the deaths of the marines as a temporary setback, AFP public affairs chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo said: “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.”

After a US spy plane flew over Marawi City on Friday, a spokesperson of the United States said on Saturday that “At the request of the government of the Philippines, US special operations forces are assisting the AFP with ongoing operations in Marawi that helps AFP commanders on the ground in their fight against Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants.”

Explaining the role of US forces, Philippine Army 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Lt Col Jo-Ar Herrera said, “They are not fighting. They are just providing technical support. The presence of the US counterparts facilitates the exchanges of intelligence, facilitates subject matter experts’ exchange, and also provides training exchanges and, of course, the technical support that we are sharing together in the fight against global terrorism.”

At the same time, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said a multi-agency rehabilitation package called ‘Rise Up Marawi’, with a 10 billion peso budget, would soon be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The rehabilitation efforts will begin in one or two weeks, Abella said, adding that they will be completed in six months by the AFP’s engineering brigade. “The purpose is to bring back residents and normal everyday life as soon as possible.”

Clashes between government troops and extremists began after the failed arrest of ASG leader Isnilon Hapilo — as he was being elected Daesh head in Mindanao — on May 23.

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