After 3 weeks, extremists still hold 20% of Marawi

A U.S. Navy aircraft provided surveillance for the local troops as the battle raged in Marawi on Friday, confirming the involvement of the U.S. military in helping to end the urban insurrection at the request of the Philippine government, Philippine military officials said.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Mindanao on May 23, and the Philippine army has been fighting the militants for nearly three weeks.

An embassy spokesperson said that it was the Philippine government that sought the United States' assistance.

USA was quick to support the Filipino army against the Islamist militants of ISIS as the two nations had tense relations although the two nations have been long-time allies and had strong ties.

The cooperation between the longtime allies is significant because Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who came to power a year ago, has taken a hostile stance towards Washington and has vowed to eject USA military trainers and advisers from his country. Over 20 civilians have been confirmed killed due to the fighting, according to the government, but the true number is likely to be higher with authorities yet to fully assess the roughly 10 percent of Marawi still being held by the militants.

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"The names of courageous soldiers who died fighting in Marawi City will be flashed on TV and read over the radio, with the sound of taps, at 12 noon as a tribute to their heroism for making the ultimate sacrifice for the flag and the country we dearly love", Abella said.

"This is part of our tactical plan to neutralize all terrorists, including their supporters", Herrera said, referring to the arrests of the parents of Abdullah and Omar Maute, who were leading the militants. "Shortly after, we flew all flags in all military camps at half mast in salute", he added.

A Philippines military spokesman confirmed Saturday that the U.S. is providing technical support and intelligence. "They fought gallantly for the liberation of our Maranao brothers and sisters", Abella said.

The group is believed to be allied to ISIS.

Philippine military officials say the violence has left at least 138 militants and 58 government troops dead.

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But the military has struggled to defeat the heavily-armed gunmen, who have used hostages and pre-existing bomb-proof tunnels to entrench their positions. "That's why we have community standards that explain what you can and cannot do on our service", a Facebook statement said.

Duterte cut short a state visit to Russian Federation and declared 60 days of martial law over the island of Mindanao when fighting broke out in May.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the President gave such discretion to the Department of Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) shortly after placing Mindanao under martial law.

About 40 foreigners have fought alongside the Philippine militants in Marawi, a lot of them from Indonesia and Malaysia, though some came from the Middle East.

"This will be over in about three more days", Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced on June 3 after a visit with wounded AFP troops.

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