MANILA- Filipino and American Marines recently held joint urban warfare training in Zambales "based on feedback from Philippine military forces" engaged in offensives against Islamic State-linked terrorists for over a month now.
US Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, and the 3rd Marine Division assisted Philippine troops last week to improve basic urban warfare techniques, including clearing rooms, hallways, and buildings in conflict areas, the US Embassy in Manila said.
The joint training came amid ongoing clashes between the Philippine military and Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Marawi City, once a bustling urban hub.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines have continued air strikes and ground operations since clashes began on May 23, aiming to flush out terrorists still lurking and holding sniper positions around the city.
As of 6 p.m. Thursday, the government placed the death toll in the Marawi crisis at 429, among them 303 terror suspects, 82 government troops, and 44 civilians. More than 200,000 residents have meanwhile fled the conflict.
US personnel have been providing "technical support" on surveillance and information gathering to the Philippine military as operations continued.
President Rodrigo Duterte previously said he was unaware of US support in the fight against Maute terrorists.
But on June 20, Malacañang said the President "has accepted" that government troops need the assistance of the US to address the crisis.
"He (Duterte) has accepted the situation at this stage," Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters when asked if the president was "wavering" on his earlier stance that foreign powers should not meddle in internal affairs.
Duterte has shown an averse stance towards the US as he pursued a foreign policy pivot that shifted to non-traditional allies such as China and Russia, among America's biggest rivals.