MANILA • Security forces killed 12 people during a drug raid in the southern Philippines, officials said.
It was the bloodiest episode in years in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on narcotics. A police officer was also killed and two officers were injured in the gun battle, which took place in the town of Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province, officials said on Saturday.
Members of the national police, accompanied by Philippine marines, had tried to serve a warrant before dawn at a residential compound tied to Mr Pendatun Adsis Talusan, a former village chief suspected of involvement in the illegal drug trade, officials said.
"We were supposed to serve the search warrant, but upon arrival in the area the suspects fired on the operating troops," said Major Esmael Madin of the Philippine National Police.
The ensuing gun battle lasted for hours, and villagers roused by the gunfire were taken to safety.
Officials said Mr Talusan was among those killed.
The battle was by far the bloodiest drug raid carried out by the Philippine police since 2017, when a town mayor, also in the south, was killed along with his wife and a dozen supporters. Mr Duterte had accused the mayor of being involved in the drug trade.
According to the police, nearly 8,000 people have been killed since Mr Duterte began his war on drugs after taking office in 2016.
The police say most of those suspects were killed by officers in self-defence, but rights groups say officers have routinely carried out extrajudicial killings.
Last month, the International Criminal Court in The Hague said there was "a reasonable basis" to believe that the Philippine security forces had committed crimes against humanity in the course of the drug war.
Mr Duterte has withdrawn the Philippines from the treaty that established the court, but Philippine rights groups welcomed the preliminary report as a way to hold his government to account.