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Philippine Police Ordered Back to Front Lines of Bloody Anti-drug Crackdown

FILE - Officers stand behind a police line after a man was killed during an anti-drug operation in Caloocan city, Metro Manila, Philippines, Aug. 17, 2017.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the country's police force to resume their role in his sweeping crackdown on illicit drugs.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday Duterte signed an order mandating the police to support the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, citing a resurgence in illegal drugs in the Pacific archipelago.

The 72-year-old Duterte launched the campaign shortly after he took office in June 2016 on a pledge to wipe out illicit drugs within six months. Between 4,000 and 7,000 people have been killed in the 18-month crackdown, drawing criticism from human rights groups, who have accused police of carrying out extra-judicial killings.

Duterte has removed police forces from official activities twice during the 18-month crackdown, the first time back in February, after a South Korean businessman was kidnapped and killed by anti-narcotics officers, the second time coming as recently as October, after the brutal slayings of three teenagers in separate incidents triggered rare street protests.

Despite the growing condemnation of the crackdown both at home and abroad, various surveys have revealed widespread support among Filipinos for Duterte's campaign.