MANILA, Philippines — The Malacañang Palace mourned the deaths of 13 Marines annihilated in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur where the government military soldiers are battling ISIS-inspired Maute terrorists to liberate the city.
In a statement on Sunday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella called the slain Marines gallant heroes who fought the the ISIS-backed Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists groups for the liberation of the country’s Maranao brothers and sisters displaced in the nearly three-week siege by Muslim militants.
“The Malacañang Palace is deeply saddened by the news on the 13 Marines killed in action during a firefight in Marawi City. They fought gallantly for the liberation of our Maranao brothers and sisters,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
Abella said the deaths of 13 Marines, is the biggest single day loss for government Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), “give us greater impetus to clear Marawi of lawless elements, save the trapped civilians, and restore order, security and normalcy to the city and its residents.”
With the deaths of 13 Marines, the latest casualty number amongst government soldiers rose to 58, on top of the 138 militants and 20 civilians has been slain since troops battled with Maute rebels in Marawi City.
“Let us continue showing our strong support to our courageous and heroic men and women in uniform fighting for Marawi and defending the Republic,” Abella further said.
The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law in a bid to weaken the terrorists attack in Marawi and to completely eliminate the Maute group, which has pledged devotion to ISIS.
The United States is helping AFP by flying spy planes over the Marawi City and nearby areas and conducting surveillance and non-combat assistance, even as President Duterte rejected the American aid and asserted the nation’s independent foreign policy.
A U.S. Navy aircraft provided surveillance for the local soldiers as the battle wrath in Marawi City on Friday, confirming the involvement of the American military in helping to conclude the urban rebellion at the request of the Philippine government, the AFP officials said.