Mayor among 10 killed in Philippine leader Duterte's drugs crackdown
A town mayor and nine other men have been killed in a clash with police in the deadliest operation of an anti-drug crackdown launched by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.
Police say more than 3,600 suspected drug dealers and users have been killed since Mr Duterte took office on June 30.
In August, Mr Duterte publicly read out the names of mayor Samsudin Dimaukom and more than 150 other officials he accused of involvement in drug trafficking in Datu Saudi Ampatuan township in southern Maguindanao province.
After his name was read out, Dimaukom turned himself in to police and denied involvement. He told the media he was fighting illegal drugs himself and supported Mr Duterte's crackdown.
Dimaukom and the nine others were killed at dawn on Friday after they opened fire on officers manning a checkpoint in Makilala town, North Cotabato province, police Superintendent Bernard Tayong said.
"Our men were forced to retaliate when the heavily armed suspects who were on board two vehicles began firing at them," said Senior Superintendent Albert Ignatius Ferro, who heads a police anti-drugs force.
Police found an M16 rifle, four pistols, a 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition and at least 13 small plastic packs of suspected methamphetamine, known locally as shabu, from the bullet-peppered vehicles of the suspects, Senior Superintendent Leonardo Suan said.
Police said they had received information that Dimaukom's group was planning to transport a "huge" amount of methamphetamine from Davao city, Mr Duterte's home town, to Datu Saudi Ampatuan.
The president's crackdown has drawn international concern over extra-judicial killings, but he has repeatedly dismissed criticism and vowed to keep his election promise to rid the country of illegal drugs. He originally said he would do so in six months, but extended that deadline by half a year, saying he was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the drug menace.
The extent of the crackdown is unprecedented in the country. Since he took office, police have arrested more than 31,600 suspects, and more than 750,000 people, mostly drug users, have surrendered to authorities, largely due to fears they could end up dead. Police have visited more than 2.6 million homes to urge suspected drug users and dealers to stop.
On Wednesday, police launched a new phase of the crackdown called Double Barrel, which they say will focus on "high-value targets" such as drug lords and those involved in large-scale production and trafficking.
Mr Duterte said he still has a long list of suspects including politicians, village officials, judges and policemen, showing a thick pile of documents. "This is the drug industry in the Philippines," he said. "I can't deal with this alone."
He appeared to issue another warning, saying that thousands more drug suspects may end up dead. He expressed disgust over criticism levelled against him while he battles a menace that he said has left many police dead.
"And to say that I should behave and keep on harping on that ... I'll tell you I will triple it," he said. "If my wishes aren't followed ... you can expect about 20,000 or 30,000 more."
"There is a war going on, I am losing two, three policemen a day. It's a war, how could it be ... genocide, killing a helpless person there, kneeling," he said. "There's none of that, we do not gather children and young men and shoot them."