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US troops near Marawi but not fighting rebels

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MARAWI US troops are on the ground near Marawi, in the southern Philippines, but are not involved in fighting militants who have held parts of the city for more than three weeks, a Philippine military spokesman said yesterday.

The military had said earlier that the US was providing technical assistance to end the occupation of parts of Marawi by fighters allied to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, but it had no boots on the ground.

"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."

A US official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his country was providing a P-3 surveillance plane, as well as intelligence gathering from a drone.

But that drone crashed on Saturday after it lost communication links with its operator, the official said.

Yesterday, government forces attacked rebel positions in Marawi with bombs, tank fire and helicopter gunships. Sniper shots could be heard.

Fighting died down in the afternoon as heavy rain fell.

"There will be no more deadlines," said the general, referring to a promise by the military to clear the city by June 12, the country's independence day.

"It may take some time."


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