By Jake Maxwell Watts //
U.S. Special Forces are supporting Philippine troops battling a militant group connected to Islamic State that has occupied the southern town of Marawi, where fierce fighting over 19 days has left at least 217 people dead.
The U.S. involvement, made public for the first time Saturday, shows Manila’s continued reliance on Washington’s military prowess, despite an onslaught of anti-American sentiment from Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte since he rose to power last year.
The battle in Marawi was triggered when authorities tried to arrest Islamic State’s designated leader of a self-styled caliphate in the predominantly Muslim southern Philippines, touching off some of the worst fighting in years. Philippine armed forces are trying dislodge fighters from the extremist Maute clan from their last defenses in the town and free up to 200 possible hostages.