Soldiers take positions while evading sniper fire on May 25, 2017 in Marawi city, southern Philippines.

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Soldiers take positions while evading sniper fire on May 25, 2017 in Marawi city, southern Philippines.

U.S. special forces are helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to end a siege of the southern town of Marawi by militants allied to Islamic State, a U.S. embassy spokesperson in Manila told Reuters on Saturday.

Until now there had been no confirmation that U.S. forces were assisting in the battle for Marawi City, which is in its third week. The city is located on the southern island of Mindanao.

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 throw out U.S. troops who have long provided training and assistance.

“At the request of the government of the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are assisting the AFP with ongoing operations in Marawi that helps AFP commanders on the ground in their fight against Maute and ASG militants,” the spokesperson said.

“For security reasons, we are not able to discuss specific technical details of U.S. support for ongoing AFP operations.”

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