U.S. Special Forces helping Philippine soldiers in battle against IS

U.S. Special Forces are assisting the Philippine military in its battle against IS-affiliated fighters, the US Embassy in Manila said Saturday.

The forces have been deployed at the request of the Philippine government, the embassy said.

Militants have been under siege since rampaging through the southern city on 23 May. The latest fighting has claimed the lives of 13 Philippine marines.

Hundreds of militants, who have been flying the black flag of the IS and are led by the self-styled IS emir of the southern Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon, and the Maute brothers Omar and Abdullah, are still holed up in the city.

The latest casualties bring the number of Philippine troops killed in the fighting to 58.

At least 138 militants and 20 civilians have also been killed, the government says.

The Pentagon noted that U.S. special forces “have been providing support and assistance in the southern Philippines for many years, at the request of several different Filipino administrations.”

The number of troops there ranges between 50 to 100 at any given time, the Pentagon said.

“As we have in the past, we routinely consult with our Filipino partners at senior levels to support the Duterte administration’s counter-terrorism efforts,” the embassy said, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“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 counter-terrorism issues.”