US special forces have joined the battle to crush Islamist militants holed up in a southern Philippines town, officials said on Saturday, as government forces struggled to make headway and 13 marines were killed in intense urban fighting.
Bomb blasts rocked Marawi City in the southern Philippines on Monday as the national flag was raised to mark independence day, nearly three weeks after hundreds of Islamist militants overran the town and hunkered down with civilians as human shields.
He also said because of years of training from the United States, "our soldiers are pro-American, that I can not deny".
In the same media interview, the President said the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ordered terrorist attacks in the country.
Military officials believe Hapilon is still in the city.
"We give premium to the mosques, because this is very symbolic to our Muslim brothers", Herrera said.
'The local terrorist groups are using the mosque, they are entrenched there. He earlier said the group planned to burn the city.
"As you know, the target was to liberate Marawi today, June 12, but... you can see how complex the problem is and how many new developments there are", Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters at the annual flag-raising ceremony at Rizal Park in Manila.
"The Maute-ISIS group won't succeed, but we need the support of all sectors of society", Ano said.
In response, Duterte had vowed to expel US military personnel from the country, but the leader appears to have found a more sympathetic counterpart in President Donald Trump, who has reportedly praised Duterte's brutal anti-crime program. We don't really need their help.
In a press briefing, Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera said that USA special forces were helping the army.
The U.S. embassy in Manila confirmed that American special forces were involved "at the request of the government of the Philippines".
USA troops are helping with surveillance and intelligence gathering, according to reports. It said it had an additional 300 to 500 troops in the country to support regular training and activities, without giving further details.
Since May 23, armed forces have been fighting Maute insurgents linked to IS who have besieged large swaths of the city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao.
Malacañang said U.S. participation in the Marawi operations is limited to technical assistance.
"The contribution of the USA is more on training and technical assistance".
Philippines military officials insist that there are no USA "boots on the ground" in the city itself, and that the U.S. involvement so far is purely "technical assistance". "We have incurred 13 killed in action".
"Their participation is limited to intelligence sharing", he said. "They're already there", he said.