Philippines says US troops on the ground near besieged Marawi City

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Philippines says US troops on the ground near besieged Marawi City

President Rodrigo Duterte has said the attack on Marawi is part of a wider plot by Islamic State to establish a base in the southern region of Mindanao, home to 20-million people.

The military told Reuters that 290 people have been killed so far, including 206 militants, 58 soldiers and 26 civilians.

Camalia Baunto, who has left her six children with her in-laws outside of Marawi, said she was determined to wait for her husband.

The American diplomat also expressed the Americans' admiration of the "resilience and strength of Filipino people in battling adversity".

USA military officials say American troops are not involved in the fighting, but they are helping with intelligence gathering in Marawi City.

Duterte's statement directly contradicts that of US officials. "But they are not allowed to fight, they only provide support".

USA military officials say troops are providing help with technical expertise in flying drones and P3 surveillance planes.

Three U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, said last week that the Pentagon was open to providing assistance, but that the Philippines had not asked for any.

More than 1,600 residents have been rescued from the scenes of heavy fighting, many of them still shell-shocked and starving while some were wounded.

But despite that inherent advantage, the U.S. has never failed to do all it can to make sure that, in addition to elite support, it will continue to enjoy the ordinary Filipino's belief and trust in the goodness, benevolence and altruism of his country's former colonizer by demonstrating at every opportunity how much the Philippines needs its "friendship".

He declined to say how many USA troops were in Marawi, saying only that they were "very few".

Debris flies in the air as Philippine Air Force fighter jets bomb suspected locations of Muslim militants as fighting continues in Marawi city, southern Philippines Friday, June 9, 2017. "I didn't look at them because I was running".

"Our soldiers are pro-American, that I can not deny", Duterte said.

Hapilon, the leader of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, is also on the Federal Bureau of Investigation most-wanted-terrorists list, with a $5 million bounty being offered for his capture.

"I'm sorry, I'm talking about the estimated number of trapped residents", he told reporters.

In 2002, the US opened a so-called "second front" on terrorism on Mindanao.

United States forces "are allowed to carry rifles for self-defense".

Indeed, Marawi remains a very unsafe place as the Philippine government tries to regain control of the city, a Muslim area on the southern island of Mindanao. "It does not involve any boots on the ground, nor is there any direct participation in combat operations, a matter prohibited by law".

Duterte on Sunday said he "never approached America" for help. He also declared Manila's shift away from Washington in favor of his administration's independent policy.

Duterte repeatedly clashed with the US's former administration over his anti-drug campaign, which was criticized by former president Barack Obama and rights groups.

Duterte said then his doctor made him stop using it on learning he was "abusing the drug" by using more than the prescribed amount.

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