Philippine marines killed in fighting with militants

The forces are providing technical help and are not fighting, it said.

Their involvement comes after months of strain between the two allies stoked by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's hostility towards Washington and his pledges to evict USA troops, who have long provided training and assistance. The latest fighting has claimed the lives of 13 Philippines marines, BBC reported.

The Philippine marines were killed when they were attacked by militants allied with the Islamic State (ISIS) group during a house-to-house search in the city.

The government had earlier said that the unrest had left 20 civilians, 134 militants and 39 government troops dead.

When asked, he said U.S. forces were not part of the ground operations against terrorists in Marawi.

The brothers' parents, who are believed to have helped fund their armed group, have been captured.

In response to this predicament, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial law in the entire southern island of Mindanao and ordered the army to focus all resources on expelling the terrorist group.

"We are still awaiting confirmation", he said.

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They initially estimated there were about 100 gunmen but later said there were as many as 500, supplemented by foreign fighters from Chechnya, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. "There are just providing technical support", Herrera said.

Reuters news agency earlier quoted the USA embassy in Manila as verifying the presence of U.S. forces.

US Special Operations Forces "have been providing support and assistance in response to Philippine government requests for many years", the embassy said.

Washington deployed special forces soldiers to Mindanao in 2002 to train and advise Filipino units fighting Abu Sayyaf militants in a program that once involved 1200 Americans.

Mr Duterte, a strongman who has supported the extrajudicial killing of drug users and other criminals, has been highly critical of the United States since taking power last June, straining a long-time alliance.

He said Friday's deaths brought the number of government troops killed in the conflict to 58.

"The chief of staff made an announcement, hoping, that by Monday we can freely wave our flags in every corner of Maraqi and we are working feverishly to do that", military spokesman Restituto Padilla told reporters.

Col Herrera said the militants were now restricted to three districts within the city.

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