Philippine Marines Commander Major General Emmanuel Salamat (R) listens to US military representatives during a handover ceremony of weapons from the US military in Manila on June 5, 2017 (Photo: AFP)
Hanoi (VNA) - The United States has given the Philippines hundreds of machine guns, pistols and grenade launchers which will be used against Islamist militants battling troops in Marawi city on Mindanao island in the southern Philippines.

The weapons, including four M134D Gatling-style machine guns, which are capable of firing thousands of rounds a minute, 300 M4 assault rifles and 100 grenade launchers, were handed over to the Philippines at a ceremony in Manila on June 5.

According to the US Embassy in the Philippines, the weapons will enhance the Philippine Marines’ counter-terrorism capacity and help protect troops actively engaged in counter-terrorism operations in the southern Philippines.

Philippine Marines chief Major General Emmanuel Salamat said at the Philippine troops would use the weapons in the ongoing battle against Islamist militants in the southern city of Marawi.

Clashes between government troops and terrorists over the last nearly two weeks have left at least 178 people dead.

In response to the violence, President Rodrigo Duterte quickly declared martial law in the southern region of Mindanao to quell what he said was a fast-growing threat from the Islamic State (IS) there.

The Philippines and the United States have for decades been close allies, and they are bound by a 1951 mutual defence treaty to protect each other if attacked.

The United States is the Philippines' biggest supplier of military hardware and arms.-VNA