Strife-Torn City Hit by Blasts on Philippines Independence Day

As the government moves to end a raging rebellion in Marawi City by Islamic militants, President Duterte has authorized top defense and military officials to take measures to resolve the threat, including obtaining foreign assistance, Malacañang said yesterday.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman for the Task Force Marawi, said the Americans were providing only "technical support" in the battle and were not involved in the physical fight.

"After observation, we see that in nearly every province. there are already IS cells, but they are sleeper cells", Nurmantyo told reporters in the capital, Jakarta.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte said the attack on Marawi City was carried out on direct orders from Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The cooperation between the longtime allies is significant because Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who came to power a year ago, has taken a hostile stance towards Washington and has vowed to eject USA military trainers and advisers from his country.

He said that about 30-40 militants used civilians as human shields, making it hard for troops to operate and also positioned themselves in the city's many mosques.

Still on Marawi, Abella said the Palace was deeply saddened by the news on the 13 Marines killed in action during a firefight in Marawi City.

A US P3 Orion surveillance aircraft is seen flying over the town of Marawi city, as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who has taken over large parts of the city, Philippines June 9, 2017.

The fresh army fatalities raised the death toll from the government side to 58, while 138 extremists and 21 civilians were also killed.

The celebration was marred by protest rallies and demonstrations condemning ongoing clashes in Mindanao and martial law.

At least 200 militants are holed up in a corner of the town.

There were strong indications the two brothers who formed one of the factions have been killed, a military spokesman said.

The providing assistance in the fight, although U.S. involvement is limited to non-combat operations. "With 202 confirmed terrorists killed why should we even give them the chance of airing their lies?" he said.

The city is crawling with militants affiliated with Maute and Abu Sayyaf, two groups which have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State and carry the same black flag into battle.

As of last year, there were 107 USA troops as of last year, according to local reports.

The Maute joined forces with Isnilon Hapilon, who was previous year proclaimed by Daesh as its Southeast Asia "emir".

The crisis in Marawi, an Islamic city in the predominantly Christian nation, has overshadowed the country's Independence Day celebrations.

  • Leroy Wright