President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said on Sunday, June 11, that he did not request U.S. military support for ongoing operations in Marawi City, contradicting a statement the day earlier from the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
At a news conference, Duterte said he “never approached America” for assistance and was “not aware of that until they arrived.”
The southern island of Mindanao has been under martial law since fighting broke out between militants and the Philippine military on May 23.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila released a statement on Saturday saying the Philippine government had requested U.S. special operations forces to assist the military with ground operations against Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants in Marawi.
The statement did not elaborate on what type of operations assistance is being provided.
However, it said the U.S. is a “a proud ally” of the Philippines and stated U.S. special operations forces have been “providing support and assistance in response to Philippine government requests for many years.”
PHILIPPINES: US embassy statement says American special forces are assisting AFP in Marawi at government's request – @cnnphilippines pic.twitter.com/fHyKEUfk4D
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) June 10, 2017
Duterte’s statements also contradict the Philippine military, which confirmed U.S. military assistance.
Military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said U.S. support is needed because “we don’t have adequate surveillance equipment … it’s noncombat assistance.”
It is not clear if the military sought assistance without Duterte’s approval.
After decades of alliance between the two countries, Duterte has publicly ridiculed U.S. officials since being elected in 2016.