US gives Philippine air force first drones

MANILA: The United States gave the Philippine air force on Tuesday (Mar 13) its first surveillance drone system, as the two nations step up cooperation in the battle against jihadist militants.

Washington has been boosting its backing for Philippine counter-terror efforts since Islamic State supporters seized parts of the southern city of Marawi last year, sparking a deadly five-month battle.

The unmanned aerial vehicle system worth US$13.2 million, including six drones, turned over to Philippine troops was the latest US military assistance.

“Assets like the ScanEagle will significantly improve the (Philippine military’s) ability to detect terrorist activities, piracy activities, territory encroachment,” US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim told reporters, referring to the drones.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the system, equipped with cameras and aircraft that can fly for 24 hours, would support operations against militants in the south.

The southern region of Mindanao is home to several pro-Islamic State groups, including those that attacked

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