MANILA (NYTIMES) - Security forces killed 12 people during a drug raid in the southern Philippines on Saturday (Jan 23), officials said. It was the bloodiest episode in years in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on narcotics.
A police officer was also killed in the gunbattle, which took place in Sultan Kudarat, a small town in the province of Maguindanao. Two other officers were wounded, officials said.
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 who was 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 upon the operating troops," Major Esmael Madin of the Philippine National Police said.
The ensuing gunbattle lasted for hours, and frightened villagers, roused by the gunfire, were taken to safety. Officials said Mr Talusan was among those killed.
It 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 involvement with 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 that 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. It said it would decide in the coming months whether to carry out a full investigation.
Mr Duterte has withdrawn the Philippines from the treaty that established the court, but Philippine rights groups welcomed its preliminary report last month as a way to hold his government to account. Two complaints accusing Mr Duterte of murder have been filed with the court.