U.S. forces back military in Philippines

Ominta Romato

Ominta Romato “Farhana” Maute

This ranged from his threat to pull out of an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and joint military exercises and a vow to kick out a small contingent of US forces stationed in Western Mindanao, which has been assisting since 2002 the Philippines in its counterterrorism efforts.

Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, meanwhile, met yesterday with his Philippine counterpart, Mr Delfin Lorenzana, in Mindanao "to express Malaysia's support for the Philippine government in its current efforts to combat the militant group in Marawi".

The militants have used bomb-proof tunnels, anti-tank weapons and civilians as human shields to fortify their positions.

"'Yung kanilang engineering battalion may be readily dispersed in order to implement whatever plans that the other agencies may have - may have agreed upon", he said.

The deaths took to 58 the number of security forces killed, with 20 civilians and more than a hundred rebel fighters also killed in the Marawi fighting. It was among the heaviest fighting seen in mainly Muslim Marawi as the air force battered parts of the city with strikes to support ground troops.

Farhana was nabbed along with two wounded Maute fighters after their vehicles were intercepted in the town of Masiu, Lanao del Sur - some 36 kilometers from the warzone - ARMM Regional Police Director Reuben Theodore Sindac was quoted by ABS-CBN news as saying. Cayamora Maute, was apprehended Tuesday morning at a checkpoint in Sirawan, Toril, Davao City, alongside with three members of his Cotabato City-based second family.

"The key component we saw in the firefight with the marines [on Friday] was how the terrorists are using mosques", he said, as Rappler reports.

Until now there had been no confirmation that the Philippines had sought USA assistance in the battle for Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, which is in its third week.

At least 200 militants are holed up in a corner of the town with an estimated 500 to 1000 civilians trapped there.

The crisis in Marawi, combined with fears that the Islamic State group is breathing new life into Muslim insurgencies in Southeast Asia, has put the Philippines and the region on edge.

Herrera said the military was "validating" reports that the two Maute brothers who founded the group had been killed.

Washington deployed special forces soldiers to Mindanao in 2002 to train and advise Philippine units fighting Abu Sayyaf militants in a programme that once involved 1,200 Americans.

Bangon Marawi is the proposed recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation program for Marawi which has been under siege since May 23 by the combined Maute and Abu Sayyaf Groups.

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