MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Nearly 500 policemen launched simultaneous raids on drug dens and other criminal hideouts in a southern Philippine city on Wednesday, killing seven suspects and arresting 39 others in one of the largest single-day anti-crime operations this year, police said.
The seven suspects were killed in separate gunbattles after they fired at police serving search warrants in the port city of Davao, said police Director Benjamin Magalong, who helped oversee the raids.
At least four syndicates involved in drug trafficking, killings and robberies were broken up, Magalong said.
About 480 policemen spread out at dawn to serve 35 search and arrest warrants in raids that led to the capture of 26 men and 13 women, he said.
“Some of these suspects resisted and fired back,” Magalong said by telephone.
Rights advocates have raised concerns over the tough anti-crime methods and rhetoric of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Magalong said police were ready to investigate any allegations of mishandling of crime suspects.
Duterte, who is seen as a possible candidate in next year’s presidential election, has denied any wrongdoing.
Violent crimes are a concern in the Philippines, along with kidnappings for ransom, extortion and banditry by al-Qaida-linked militants in the south.
On Wednesday, army troops and police fatally shot a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant who they said was linked to the kidnappings of seven people, including a South Korean man in the south.
Mahmur Jupuri, who was riding on a motorcycle with a companion, tried to ram wooden roadblocks at a security checkpoint in Indanan town in Sulu province, sparking a clash with police and soldiers, Sulu military commander Col. Alan Arrojado said.
Jupuri was killed and his companion was wounded, Arrojado said by phone.
The Abu Sayyaf is a small but brutal Muslim rebel group that emerged in the early 1990s in the south, the scene of a decadeslong separatist rebellion by larger Muslim groups in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.
The group, which is listed by Washington as a terrorist organization, lost its key commanders early in combat, sending it on a violent path of extremism and criminality.