MANILA - Malacañang on Saturday expressed solidarity with Muslim Filipinos as the holy month of Ramadan began amid continuing conflict in Marawi City, which has displaced residents and left several troops, terrorists and civilians dead.
In a statement, the Palace conveyed its prayers to end terrorism, which has gripped Marawi City amid the rampage of the terrorist Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups this week.
"We stand with Muslim Filipinos in their reverent observance of the holy month of Ramadan. Together we pray for an end to terrorism that falsely claims to advance Islam and seeks to subjugate our land to the brutal IS (Islamic State)," Malacañang said.
Muslims across the Philippines marked the start of Ramadan Saturday as thousands continued to flee Marawi City, where firefights continued between government troops and terrorists.
President Rodrigo has placed Mindanao under martial law as government sought to flush out terrorists still in the area. He said the terror groups aimed to establish an Islamic province in Mindanao.
On Thursday, the military launched surgical air strikes as it pursued clearing operations.
Speaking Friday to troops deployed in the fighting, President Rodrigo Duterte made a public call for the terrorists to sit down in talks with government as he sought to end the fighting.
"In this spirit of Muslim peace, the President has offered the hand of peaceful dialogue to terrorist groups, to avoid bloodshed in this time of prayer, fasting and mercy. With all faiths, we pray that God restore and preserve peace in Mindanao," the Palace said.
At least 31 suspected terrorists have been killed in clashes since Tuesday, six of whom were fighters from Malaysia and Indonesia, Armed Forces spokesperson Restituto Padilla earlier said.
The government side has meanwhile suffered 13 deaths, among them 11 soldiers and two policemen. There has yet to be a confirmed count on civilian deaths, but nine hostages were known to have been slain by the Maute group on Tuesday.