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US troops on ground in war-ravaged Philippine city: Military

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US army on ground near Marwai City, supporting Phillipines against ISIS.

Reuters, Manila :
Armed US troops are on the ground near the besieged Marawi City in the Philippines, but they are in a support role and not participating in fighting ISIS terrorists, a Philippines military spokesman said today.
"There are some US personnel who are operating equipment to provide information on situation awareness to our troops," Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told a news conference.
"I do not know the exact number and the specific mission. They are allowed to carry rifles for self-defence. But they are not allowed to fight, they only provide support," he said.
The small number of US soldiers are providing vital surveillance assistance and, although they do not have a combat role, are allowed to open fire on the militants if attacked first, spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said.
"In a battle the most important item for the commander is to be able to determine what is happening," Padilla said as he confirmed that men in civilian clothes caught by a television camera flying drones from a pickup truck were US troops.
"It's called situational awareness and that is the sort of assistance being given."
The Philippine military has for over three weeks been engaged in fierce battles with hundreds of militants, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, in the southern city of Marawi on Mindanao island.
The fighting has left 202 gunmen dead, while 58 soldiers and 26 civilians have also been killed, according to the government.
The militants have withstood a relentless bombing campaign that has made parts of Marawi, the most important Islamic city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, resemble war-devastated cities in Iraq and Syria.
The Philippines and the United States are longtime allies and are bound by a mutual defence treaty.

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