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Philippines fight against ISIS grinds on, victory still ‘weeks’ away

The U.S. military has deployed a spy plane at Manila’s request to help provide surveillance to troops battling militants still holed up in a few buildings in Marawi with an unspecified number of civilian hostages.Denying reports that states that he sought help from the U.S. to support Philippine soldiers battle ISIS-inspired militants in the Southern Philippines, Duterte said he never approached any American to help the military.When asked about US support to fight the pro-Islamic State militants in Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, Duterte said he was “not aware of that until they arrived”.A U.S. official, who requested anonymity, confirmed to Philippine media that the support they are providing to soldiers to suppress terrorism is in form of aerial surveillance and they are providing electronic eavesdropping and communications assistance.A military truck driving past an abandoned hospital is seen through its window full of bullet holes, as government troops continue their assault against ISIS-affiliated militants, in Marawi, Philippines June 12, 2017.He declared martial law across Mindanao on May 23, the day after the Maute attacked the city. Multitudes numbering about five hundred (500) armed men marched along the main streets of Marawi and swiftly occupied strategic positions throughout the city.Former military chief Rodolfo Biazon told ABC-CBN television on Monday that the government seemed to be struggling to control the situation in Marawi because its porous borders meant rebel forces could move freely in an out of the town.”Secretary Cayetano and Prime Minister Abe had fruitful discussions on the state of Philippines-Japan relations and highlighted the friendship between Prime Minister Abe and President Duterte”, the DFA said.”We also have information that we received recently that actually the Maute brothers and Hapilon, they have a line connected to ISIS, particularly al-Baghdadi, which also incited them to attack Marawi”, he said.The military on Friday said the USA has been providing technical assistance to Philippine forces in a bid end the siege in Marawi City.”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. The death toll for civilians was 20 and more than 100 had been killed overall.Galvez said the military needed to reclaim high-rise establishments used by Maute snipers.Washington said at the weekend it was providing support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to clear the militants from pockets of Marawi.According to the government, at least 26 civilians, 58 police or soldiers and 202 militants have been killed since the fighting began.The seizure of Marawi by fighters allied to Islamic State, including some from the Middle East, has alarmed Southeast Asian nations which fear the ultra-radical group – on a backfoot in Iraq and Syria – is trying to set up a stronghold on Mindanao that could threaten their region.Maute joined forces with Isnilon Hapilon, who was past year proclaimed by Islamic State as its Southeast Asia “emir”. The Philippine President will have talks with the Indonesian government to address the infiltration of ISIS that is reportedly coming from the some of the Islands off Borneo and in the Celebes sea.General Ganip told reporters that security has been stepped up in anticipation of either the Philippines military clinching victory against the local militants or losing the battle in Marawi.