MANILA (Reuters) – Three minors were among seven people shot dead by suspected vigilantes in the Philippines at a house storing illegal narcotics, police said on Thursday, in the latest killings during a bloody and murky war on drugs.
Two unknown gunmen arrived on motorcycles and entered what police called a drugs den north of the capital Manila late on Wednesday. They opened fire on those inside, killing five instantly before fleeing, according to a police report, which said two other victims died before reaching the hospital.
Four of those killed were teenagers, two of them 15, one 16 and one 18. The killings come as the government of President Rodrigo Duterte prepares legislation to put to Congress to lower the age of criminal liability to nine from 15.
More than 6,100 people have been killed in the past six months during Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, about a third in police operations and others classified as deaths under investigation. Police say killings during counter-narcotics operations were in self-defense.
The crackdown, the core plank of Duterte’s election campaign, has been condemned internationally and has created tension between the Philippines and key allies and donors, among them the European Union, United States and United Nations. He has praised China for staying out of it.
Duterte has hit back with stunning rebukes and says he is willing to “rot in jail” to rid the Philippines of a drugs problem he initially vowed to solve within three to six months. He says the scourge was bigger than he first thought.
In a television interview on Thursday, Duterte said the drugs war would not end soon.
“Until the last pusher is out of the street… until the last drugs lord is killed, this drug campaign would continue to the last day of my term,” he said.
Killings by vigilantes have occurred often and the authorities have been accused by rights groups of hiring assassins to kill suspects.
Duterte vehemently denies police are in cahoots with vigilantes and has said drugs gangs are killing rivals and silencing informants and it was taking place long before he took office.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Martin Petty: Editing by Nick Macfie)