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Operations against Islamists in Marawi ‘all-Filipino’ – military insists

/ 06:43 PM June 11, 2017

DAVAO CITY – Defense officials on Sunday reiterated no US troops were
 directly involved in fighting Islamic State-inspired gunmen in Marawi
City, saying American participation was limited to technical aspects, such as intelligence and training.

In a press briefing in Cagayan de Oro on Sunday, Lorenzana said the
deployment of P3 Orion surveillance plane by US military advisors
stationed in Zamboanga City has been going on even before fighting in
Marawi erupted last May 23.

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Lorenzana said military advisors based in the military’s Western
Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) in Zamboanga City have been providing training to Filipino soldiers, and for the past weeks gave some pieces of equipment to the Philippine Marines involved in the operation to flush out Islamist Maute and Abu Sayyaf gunmen in Marawi.

The fighting, which has entered its 20th day, has left over 200 people dead, including 191 terrorists, 29 civilians and close to 60 security forces, the military said.

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On Saturday, the military suffered its largest single loss in the
nearly month-long offensive when 13 Marines, including two junior
officers, died, and 40 others wounded in a 16-hour firefight, with
terrorists firing shoulder-fired rockets and mortars on a company of
Marines in one of Marawi’s terrorist-held villages.

Lorenzana said the US unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which has infrared, advanced optics and thermal imaging capabilities, among
others, could be remotely controlled anywhere in the country, but US
personnel manning the surveillance aircraft could move their bases in
cities near Marawi like Cagayan de Oro and Iligan to “bring them
closer to action for them to advise better.”

“It does not alter the fact that they have been providing us with
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information to the troops,” Lorenzana said.

A U.S. P3 Orion surveillance plane flies over Marawi city, southern Philippines as Philippine Air Force helicopters and bombers continue air strikes on Friday, June 9, 2017. It’s unclear how many people remain trapped in Marawi as government troops battle Muslim militants led by the so-called “Maute” group but army officers have put the figure this week at anywhere from 150 to 1,000. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Lt. General Carlito Galvez, Western Mindanao Command chief, said operations in Marawi were “basically all-Filipino.”

“The Americans assist us on the technical aspect. For example, if we
want maps that are highly-elaborate, we can ask from them. But in
operational matters, we’re the ones doing these, no Americans
involved,” Galvez said.

He said US troops have assisted in training one recon company of the
Philippine military.
The Americans have also supported their Filipino counterparts in
capability enhancement, counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance civic actions, the regional military commander said.

Technical assistance

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At Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Ernie Abella on Sunday  admitted that the United States is assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its operations in Marawi but this is limited to technical assistance.

“We have standing protocols which are already in place under the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board with the US under the purview of the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951,” Abella said in a statement.

“It does not involve any boots on the ground nor is there any direct participation in combat operations, a matter prohibited by law,” he said.

He said the fight against terrorism is not only the concern of the Philippines or the United States but also of many nations around the world.

“The Philippines is open to assistance from other countries if they offer it,” he added. /ac

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TAGS: abu sayyaf, Islamic State, Marawi siege, Maute group, Philippine news updates, Terrorism
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