Despite government denials that they have any “boots on the ground” US special forces have been spotted near Marawi City.
The American troops were seen at Camp Ranao military camp by GMA News reporter Raffy Tima today (Monday, June 12).
The involvement of US forces in the fight against Islamic State affiliated terrorists in Marawi City was announced by the country’s embassy in Manila late last week.
No further details of the deployment was given but a statement said: “The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines, and we will continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries, including on counterterrorism issues.”
Following the announcement, President Duterte said he had “never approached America” for help and was “not aware of that until they arrived.”
The Philippines military was swift to clarify that US forces were providing technical assistance but had no “boots on the ground.”
In response the president said that due to years of training with the United States, “our soldiers are pro-American, that I cannot deny” – but denied military commanders had gone over his head.
However, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella appeared to suggest in a statement that US forces were indeed participating directly in combat operations — something prohibited by Philippine law.
“The fight against terrorism, however, is not only the concern of the Philippines or the United States but it is a concern of many nations around the world,” he said.
“The Philippines is open to assistance from other countries if they offer it.”
In a later statement he clarified that the US forces were not participating in combat operations and were only providing “technical assistance.”
It has also been confirmed that US Navy P3 Orion surveillance planes are being used in the Marawi campaign. The aircraft flew above rocket-firing Philippine helicopters that struck militant positions, causing plumes of smoke to billow skyward.
Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said: “We don’t have adequate surveillance equipment, so we asked the US military for assistance. It’s noncombat assistance.”
The conflict between the military and the Maute terror group entered its 21st day today, as the country celebrates its 119th Independence Day.
More 40 soldiers and policemen, 138 terrorists and an estimated 21 civilians have been killed. Thousands of residents have been displaced, leading to growing concerns over food and medical supplies.