UK on heightened alert after terror arrests

Just weeks after the attack on the Houses of Parliament that left five people dead and scores injured, London is once again on high alert as Britain prepares for a snap election on June 8.

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“Yesterday was an extraordinary day in London,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said, after confirming six arrests overnight.

“I wanted to reassure the public that this increased level of terrorist activity is being matched by our action… We are making arrests on a near daily basis.”

A 27-year-old man remains in custody after being arrested near parliament on suspicion of terrorism offences and possession of knives, in what police confirmed had been an ongoing investigation.

Just hours later, armed police raided a property in north London as part of an unrelated counter-terrorism investigation, firing CS gas as they entered and shooting a woman in her 20s.

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Six people have been arrested as part of the probe, while the woman – who is also suspected of involvement – remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

“Due to these arrests that have been made yesterday, in both cases I believe we have contained the threats that they posed,” Basu said.

Suspect ‘tracked to Westminster’

Britain’s national terror threat level has been at “severe”, meaning an attack is highly likely, since August 2014 — and remained unchanged after the attack on parliament on March 22.

Khalid Masood drove a car through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into the gates of parliament. He ran inside and knifed to death a policeman, before being shot.

Police have said they may never know why he did it.

The man arrested on Thursday, metres from parliament and Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street residence, had reportedly been tracked by police and the domestic intelligence agency MI5.

Newspaper reports said he had been followed as he travelled into Westminster, in an investigation that originally began with a tip-off by someone close to him.

“They stopped and searched him as part of an ongoing counter-terrorism investigation,” Basu said, without giving further details.

An AFP photographer saw firearms officers surrounding the bearded man and pinning him to the ground, before putting him in handcuffs.

Construction worker David Wisniowski, who was working on a building site next to the incident, told AFP he saw “three knives on the floor, one big one and two small”.

‘Debt of gratitude’

Hours later in Harlesden, a suburb in north London, armed police launched an unrelated counter-terrorism operation that resulted in six arrests overnight, five in the area and one in Kent, southeast England.

The address had been under observation and the woman who was shot was one of the subjects of the investigation, Basu said.

“Her condition is serious but stable. Because of her condition she has not yet been arrested. We are monitoring her condition closely,” he said, adding that the police watchdog had been informed.

During an election campaign speech on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to the police and security services, saying they were owed “a huge debt of gratitude”.

Terrorism has yet to feature heavily in the campaign for the June 8 vote, although May’s Conservatives have sought to exploit the anti-nuclear stance of opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed the leftist leader “seems to have no grasp of the need for this country to be strong in the world”.

 

Government ‘can’t guarantee’ gas prices will halve under new powers

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has hit back at Labor claims he pledged wholesale gas prices would halve under his short-term solution to address looming domestic supply shortages.

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Mr Turnbull has been under pressure about remarks he made when announcing export controls to protect domestic supplies.

“People” were being offered prices of $20 a gigajoule in Australia and under the new regime it should be about half that amount or less, he said.

Watch: Turnbull making it up as he goes along, Butler says

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Mr Turnbull later clarified the comments by insisting he was talking about wholesale prices, saying the main benefits would flow to businesses that relied heavily on gas.

But Labor leader Bill Shorten queried whether the prime minister was falsely promising to halve gas prices for households.

Mr Turnbull on Friday insisted the new measures would put “downward pressure” on wholesale prices, which made up 15-20 per cent of household bills.

And the “people” he was referring to were manufacturers.

“(Bill) Shorten misrepresented me as he always does,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

Watch: Shorten challenges Turnbull on gas prices

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Earlier Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg defended Mr Turnbull, saying he had been misquoted.

“The prime minister never said that prices will halve for all gas users,” he told ABC radio from Washington, where he is meeting his US counterparts.

“We can’t guarantee price in relation to any industry but what we can guarantee is this mechanism will put more gas into the domestic market.”

Under new regulations, if an exporter draws more from the domestic market than they put in they will need to show how they will fill the shortfall as part of their overall production and exports.

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The government will not prescribe how the gas exporters fill the shortfall.

Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler says manufacturers deserve to know the impact of the new policy.

“Malcolm Turnbull is either making it up as he goes along or he lied,” he told reporters in Adelaide.

The Australian Pipelines and Gas Association says the real issue is too little gas is being produced to meet demand.

“There must be a concerted effort across commonwealth, state and territory governments to identify all opportunities to increase gas exploration and production,” chief executive Peter Greenwood said.

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Manufacturing Australia executive director Ben Eade, who met Mr Turnbull on Thursday, agreed more work was needed to boost supply that would push down gas prices.

If the government did not act it would affect jobs not only in manufacturing but agriculture, food, infrastructure and housing, he said.

RELATED: Industrial gas prices rising since 2002

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IPL huge benefit to England hopes: Vaughan

Former Test captain Michael Vaughan believes Indian Premier League exposure will give England an edge in their bid to win a first major 50-over tournament when the Champions Trophy begins in June.

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The Indian 20-over competition features the world’s top limited-overs stars and Vaughan says that cannot help but be a boost to England’s prospects in the shorter formats.

“Playing in the IPL is a tremendous experience. It should’ve been done years ago,” he said.

“Kevin Pietersen was right. He was completely right in terms of saying the England players should’ve been allowed to play a lot more.

“I think it’s going to move England on, I think it has. Most of the one-day team have been given this opportunity to play in (Australia’s) Big Bash and now they’ve got the IPL.

“I think it just furthers their white-ball education. I can’t see anything but positives.

“England players should be involved in these types of leagues and if it means they miss a couple of Ireland games, I’m all for it.”

England named a 15-man squad on Tuesday for the Champions Trophy, which for the hosts begins against Bangladesh at The Oval on June 1, following a one-day series against South Africa.

England reached the final in 2004 and 2013 when hosting the competition but Vaughan says the current squad, which includes new Test skipper Joe Root, are more capable of success.

“The last two Champions Trophies here we’ve not had a great team and we’ve managed to sneak to the final by default, really. Whereas this team are a really good team,” he said.

“They’ve certainly got all the tools and ingredients to win, but you don’t just win on paper.

“Joe Root said yesterday ‘this is a great chance for England to win a tournament’. So they all know that they’ve got enough. It’s just whether they can deliver.”

India are the holders, but political posturing has placed some doubt on their participation.

“I think it’s becoming quite consistent that India flex their muscles at times,” Vaughan said.

“(But) they’ll fancy their chances, so they’ll certainly be here.”

Violence erupts as protesters storm Macedonia parliament

An AFP reporter saw Zoran Zaev, who leads the main opposition Social Democrats, with blood on his face in the chaos, while Macedonian media quoting hospital sources said ten people were injured, including two deputies.

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The violence erupted after around 100 protesters supporting the rival VMRO-DPMNE party entered parliament waving Macedonian flags and singing the national anthem.

AFP photos and footage on local TV showed at least one masked man inside the building.

“I condemn the attacks on MPs in Skopje in the strongest terms. Violence has NO place in Parliament. Democracy must run its course,” said European Union Commissioner Johannes Hahn on Twitter.

The incident follows months of political deadlock in the Balkan country, where demonstrators have been holding nightly rallies in the capital since an inconclusive December election.

Protestors storm the Parliament after Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (AAP)AAP

They oppose a proposed coalition between Zaev’s Social Democrats (SDSM) and ethnic Albanians, which they perceive as a threat to national unity.

According to local media, Thursday’s incident broke out after the SDSM and Albanian parties voted in a new parliamentary speaker although the former speaker had closed the day’s session.

Their chosen speaker, Talat Xhaferi, is ethnic Albanian.

For a decade until last year, Macedonia was ruled by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE and its leader Nikola Gruevski.

December’s election saw the party secure 51 seats in the 120-seat parliament — or two more than the SDSM, but the conservatives failed to reach a deal with kingmaking Albanian parties.

Although Zaev then reached an agreement with the Albanian groups, President Gjorge Ivanov refused to give him a mandate to form a government.

An ally of Gruevski, the president expressed concern over the controversial demand of Albanian parties that Albanian be made an official language across Macedonia.

Critics of the demand fear it could lead to the break-up of the small country of around two million people, about a quarter of whom are ethnic Albanians.

The EU and the United States have urged Ivanov to reverse his decision, while Macedonia’s opposition has warned its conservative rivals that they are playing with fire by using the ethnic card in a bid to stay in power.

The vote was supposed to end two years of political upheaval in Macedonia, sparked by a huge wiretapping scandal, but it has only served to deepen the crisis.

The former Yugoslav republic aspires to join both NATO and the EU.

Gruevski called for people to “calm down” after Thursday’s trouble.

“People should not respond to provocations of the SDSM and those who want to push the state into even deeper crisis,” he said on Facebook.

Kangaroos on notice after veterans dumped

North Melbourne skipper Jack Ziebell believes the decision to axe Andrew Swallow and Lindsay Thomas has sent a powerful message to the winless AFL team.

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Ziebell feels for the out-of-form veterans but agrees Kangaroos players have been put on notice ahead of Saturday’s clash against Gold Coast.

“I think it sends a message to everyone at our footy club that there’s no individual who is bigger than the club … if you’re not doing what’s required then we’ll bring someone in who can,” Ziebell said on Friday.

“I think for our young guys that’s a pretty powerful message.

“We’ve got a lot of guys doing really well in the reserves at the moment and opportunities aren’t far away.

“When you’re 0-5 change is inevitable.”

The Roos’ last-gasp loss to Fremantle last week was their third of the season by a margin of five points or less.

It continued a worrying trend of close losses under Brad Scott, but Ziebell said it was down to the players to take responsibility when a match is in the balance.

“When the game’s tight we need to make sure we stand up and get the job done,” he said.

“We’ve been in every game this year and been in control of some and should’ve capitalised but didn’t.

“But we understand why we haven’t and how we can change that.

“For our group that will give them a lot of confidence that next time we get in that position we can get it done.”

Important forward Shaun Higgins and former Hawk Jed Anderson were included to face the Suns, who sit 12th on the ladder with a 2-3 record.

Gold Coast rested David Swallow for the Etihad Stadium clash and recalled Jesse Lonergan.

Rodney Eade’s men are coming off a 67-point thumping by Adelaide, but return to the scene of their last win – against Carlton in round four – when co-captain Tom Lynch kicked seven goals.

“I think Tom is an absolute star of the competition … we’ll definitely be doing everything we can to halt his momentum,” Ziebell said.

“(Not only) down back but also with some pressure on the ball to try and hamper that delivery.

“(But) they’ve very talented across all lines and when they put it together they’re very hard to beat.”

Le Pen says voters must choose ‘for or against’ France

The candidates’ starkly differing visions on France’s future are at the heart of the May 7 election run-off — with Macron, a 39-year-old former banker embracing free trade and the EU, while Le Pen wants to seal France’s borders and quit the euro.

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“The country Mr Macron wants is no longer France, it’s a space, a wasteland, a trading room where there are only consumers and producers,” Le Pen told a cheering crowd of some 4,000 supporters in the Riviera city of Nice, a rightwing stronghold.

“It’s no longer a nation but a splintered multicultural society… where the only law is the survival of the fittest,” said Le Pen, who got fresh bad news Thursday in the “fake jobs” scandal afflicting her National Front (FN) party.

“This election is a referendum for or against France… I’m asking you to choose France,” she said.

But Le Pen, who the latest polls suggest is some 20 points behind her rival, also sought to cast a reassuring image aimed at broadening voter support for her anti-immigrant, anti-EU camp.

“I pay no attention to your origins, your religion, your sexual orientation, the colour of your skin,” she told the flag-waving crowd. “That doesn’t interest me, what interests me is you.”

She has campaigned fiercely since she and Macron qualified Sunday for the runoff, while Macron was accused of a laggardly start to his second-round efforts but has stepped up the pace over the past 24 hours.

WATCH Anti-Le Pen protests break out in Paris

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Related reading’Neither banker, nor racist’ 

The former economy minister, speaking at nearly the same time as Le Pen on French television, said he aimed to heal the divide in France over its relationship with the EU.

“I will defend (the EU) by reforming it,” he said. “Our challenge is to reconcile our citizens with the EU… which we need to provide more protection to our citizens amid globalisation.”

Macron was booed and heckled on Wednesday when he visited a Whirlpool factory in the northern city of Amiens, his hometown, where the US appliances giant is threatening to partially outsource production to Poland.

The besuited candidate had been meeting with union representatives kilometres away from the plant, but he was upstaged when Le Pen showed up at the factory unannounced.

Her appearance forced a hasty change in plans and Macron ended up spending more than an hour debating with workers amid chaotic scenes as dozens of TV camera teams crowded around him.

He left the incident relatively unscathed, and even shook hands with some workers before leaving.

Macron and Le Pen topped the first round of the election on Sunday to advance to the runoff, but not everyone is happy with the line-up.

On Thursday, students demonstrating against both candidates clashed with police in Paris, hurled bottles at the officers who responded with tear gas.

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Black-clad demonstrators broke off from a 1,000-strong crowd of mostly teens waving signs that said “Neither the banker, nor the racist”.

The latest poll suggests Macron will defeat Le Pen by a margin of 21 points in the runoff on May 7, and figures from France’s traditional left and right — both absent from the second round — have backed him too.

Le Pen journeyed to the Mediterranean coast Thursday to spend the morning aboard a fishing trawler, seeking to portray herself as the protector of small-time producers.

Five million euros 

The “Battle of Amiens” at the Whirlpool factory — as leftwing daily Liberation called it — was the standout moment of the election so far, even though the candidates were not at the site at the same time.

Much of campaign was dominated by the legal woes engulfing conservative Francois Fillon, whose campaign was dogged by allegations he paid his wife millions in public money for little work. He lost in Sunday’s first round.

But on Thursday there was a reminder of the allegations of wrongdoing also hanging over Le Pen.

Investigators probing alleged FN expenses fraud at the European Parliament said the sum involved was now believed to be nearly five million euros ($5.5 million), more than twice an initial estimate.

The parliament accuses the FN of using funds meant for parliamentary assistants to pay staff including a bodyguard to work in France between 2012 and 2017, which contravenes the assembly’s rules.

In March, Le Pen invoked her immunity as an MEP in refusing to submit to questioning by French prosecutors until after the election.

“Five million euros, that’s nonsense,” said Wallerand de Saint Just, National Front party treasurer.

WATCH: Macron booed in Le Pen country

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Crows recall Jenkins for big AFL clash

Adelaide have some unwelcome AFL selection news for Richmond coach Damien Hardwick, with Josh Jenkins named to return in Sunday’s blockbuster.

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The ladder-leading Crows also kept defender Daniel Talia in their lineup, despite last weekend’s hamstring injury.

Earlier on Friday, Hardwick had half-jokingly mused it would be good if the Tigers did not have to face Jenkins and Andy Otten.

“Otten has been really good for them,” Hardwick said.

“With Talia playing as well, they probably have some selection headaches.

“Jenkins is a very, very good player, but Andy Otten has been in good form as well.

“It would be handy if one of those boys didn’t play.”

Jake Kelly was also recalled to take on Richmond, who are also unbeaten, while Troy Menzel was dropped and Riley Knight has a hamstring injury.

Richmond’s Steve Morris is back for his first game since suffering a serious knee injury midway through last season and Nick Vlastuin is also back, while Todd Elton and Connor Menadue were left out.

Essendon and Melbourne made a combined nine changes for Sunday’s Etihad Stadium and Bombers veteran Brent Stanton was a high-profile casualty.

The Bombers dropped Stanton after his quiet Anzac Day match.

Ruckman Tom Bellchambers will play his first senior game this season and the Bombers also brought back Ben Howlett, Martin Gleeson and Conor McKenna.

James Kelly, Aaron Francis and Matthew Leuenberger were also left out as Essendon deal with their five-day turnaround.

Melbourne midfielder Jordan Lewis is back from his three-game suspension and Cam Pedersen is their stop-gap ruckman.

The Demons also named Tomas Bugg, Oscar McDonald and Mitch Hannan.

Apart from Jake Spencer (shoulder), Tim Smith (rib) and Jesse Hogan (family bereavement), Melbourne dropped Bill Stretch and James Harmes.

Collingwood made two changes for Sunday’s MCG match against Geelong, resting Ben Reid and also leaving out Jackson Ramsay.

Former Demon Lynden Dunn will make his Magpies debut and Josh Smith returns.

The unbeaten Cats recalled Jed Bews and Sam Menegola for Daniel Menzel and Jackson Thurlow

Buckley has no regrets on AFL finals talk

Nathan Buckley has no regrets about tying his coaching future to Collingwood making the AFL finals, despite the inevitable consequences.

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The Magpies’ spluttering 1-4 start, coming off the back of no finals since 2013 and Buckley’s comments last August about his future, have ramped up the pressure.

Their high-profile Anzac Day loss to Essendon made Buckley the story of the week.

Buckley acknowledged it was a “good question” when asked on Friday if he regretted his comments last year in a radio interview.

“I’ve always had fairly high expectations … .my wife has very high expectations of me, my father has always had high expectations of me,”‘ Buckley said.

“I’m not saying we’re high-performing at the moment, but high performers everywhere always put a little bit more pressure on themselves than others do.”

But Buckley remains upbeat and says Collingwood are relishing the challenge of playing unbeaten Geelong off a five-day break.

The Magpies coach said after the Essendon loss that while they were not far off, they are also a mile off.

Their biggest loss is only 19 points, but they are floundering in attack.

“We’ve had a really good week – we’ve emphasised the things we’re doing okay, we’ve identified a couple of the areas and themes that we really want to continue to work on,” he said.

“We believe if we get that right, we’re going to be pretty hard to beat.

“We’re not looking at bridging a gap of two or three goals … we think we’re leaving eight, nine, 10 goals out on the park.

“We’re still aiming to play finals – we’re 1-4 and we play a top-of-the-table Cats team.

“That’s as far as we’re looking, that’s as far as we can afford to look.”

Buckley was asked how he is coping.

“I’m going OK – I tell you what I do have is great support, internally,”‘ he said.

“I’ve actually been asked that question a fair bit, this week in particular.

“That’s the great thing about footy clubs – I actually probably think about it more when people ask about it, than when I’m in my quiet moments.”

Magpies president Eddie McGuire strongly backed Buckley publicly in the aftermath of Anzac Day.

Buckley said that backing throughout the club is genuine.

“It’s definitely still outside the four walls,” Buckley said of the negative commentary surrounding his team.

“We’re tight-knit, we’re in it for the same reasons and we want to be successful.

“Eddie’s support is appreciated and the old ‘full support of the board’ – I get it, but I feel it as well.”

Meanwhile, Buckley said there is nothing wrong physically with captain Scott Pendlebury, who said Anzac Day was probably his worst game in 10 years.

“The speculation has only come from the fact that you’re not seeing the performance from a player (who) you expect a certain level of performance from,” Buckley said.

“So we ask the same questions.

“It does beg the question, but he feels up and about and looking forward to Sunday.”

‘Patchy’ Dogs building AFL form: Murphy

Bulldogs skipper Bob Murphy is confident the reigning premiers are building on a patchy start ahead of Friday night’s AFL blockbuster against GWS in Canberra.

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The Dogs are sitting pretty at 4-1 but haven’t looked their convincing best. In last week’s win over Brisbane – Murphy’s 300th game – they had to claw back a six-goal deficit after halftime.

Luke Beveridge’s men will be put to the test when they face the Giants in a rematch of their instant classic preliminary final.

Forced to watch last year’s epic clash from the sidelines, Murphy is expecting another fierce contest.

The 34-year-old admits the Dogs are still finding their straps but believes they are heading in the right direction and will peak at the right time.

“I think we’re building, and I think we’ve improved each week,” Murphy told AAP.

“It’s a 22-round steeplechase and then the finals, so it’s a long way to go.

“Our form’s a little bit patchy but we’re able to get the wins on the board, and at this time of year, we’ll take that.”

Classy midfielder Caleb Daniel and teenager Bailey Williams have been recalled in place of veteran Matthew Boyd (back) and Shane Biggs (omitted).

With Beveridge not hesitant to make changes to his flag-winning side, Murphy says team chemistry hasn’t been an issue.

“We had a lot of guys play last year – we’ve had a lot of injuries – so we’ve been able to absorb a lot of change over the last few years,” he said.

“We’ll tinker with our side for the rest of the year, as most sides will. So far, it’s all going to plan.”

While Murphy has resumed leadership duties after his injury lay-off, premiership captain Easton Wood clearly remains a key leader at Whitten Oval.

The defender’s impassioned on-field address at halftime against Brisbane sent the Dogs on a massive run, booting 12 goals to two after the main break.

“We’ve got quite a bit of experience in our leadership group, and Easton’s one of those guys,” Murphy said.

“On occasion, he will take the group and speak as passionately as any of us. He cares a lot about the team and he was quite inspirational on the weekend.”

Detainees found in ‘secret police cell’ in Philippines

Members of the government’s human rights commission, accompanied by journalists, found the men and women in an unannounced visit to the station in the heart of Manila’s slum area on Thursday evening.

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Cries of “here we are, here we are” were heard from behind a wall, according to the rights workers and journalists. The rights workers then found a hidden door behind a bookshelf, leading to the cell.

Stunned detainees came stumbling out of the room, some begging for water while others, in tears, pleaded with the rights workers not to abandon them.

The detainees said they had been held for about a week after being arrested on allegations of drug use or trafficking and that police had demanded hefty payments in exchange for their freedom.

People allegedly kept inside a hidden room at the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Manila Police Department’s Police Station 1 in the Tondo area of Manila.AFP

“They were picked up on the pretext of drugs but they had not filed any charges against them,” Gilbert Boisner, Manila director for the rights commission who led the inspection, told AFP on Friday.

Human Rights Watch said the incident was another example of widespread rights abuse under Duterte’s war on drugs, which has seen thousands of drug suspects killed either by policemen or mysterious vigilantes.

“The discovery of the secret jail is just the latest sign of how police are exploiting Duterte’s abusive anti-drug campaign for personal gain,” the group said in a statement.

Duterte briefly suspended all police from the crackdown in January after an official investigation found drug officers kidnapped a South Korean businessman and murdered him as part of an extortion scam.

‘Corrupt to the core’

Duterte described the police force then as “corrupt to the core” and vowed it would not be allowed to prosecute the drug war until its ranks had been “cleansed”.

But he redeployed police onto the drug war about a month later, without major reforms.

Rights groups have questioned his sincerity in wanting to cleanse the police force, citing his promise to pardon officers if they are found guilty of murder for killing in his drug war.

Police have reported killing 2,724 people as part of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, although authorities insist the shootings have been in self defence.

Many thousands of others have been killed by shadowy vigilantes, according to rights groups.

A Philippine lawyer on Monday filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing Duterte of mass murder, alleging his war on drugs had led to about 8,000 deaths.

Rights disdain

Global rights monitor Amnesty International released a report in February warning that the killings in the drug war may amount to a crime against humanity.

It accused police of shooting defenceless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they killed.

Senator de Lima, one of Duterte’s fiercest critics who has been detained on what she says are false charges in an effort to silence her, said the “secret cell” was an expected consequence of the drug war.

“Because we let him kill our poor countrymen like animals, we can only expect more animal and inhuman treatment from his policemen,” she said in a statement.

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The station chief in charge of the “secret cell” was suspended on Friday as police vowed an investigation but conceded that improper detentions were widespread.

“We must recognise that this problem is not just in one police station but almost in all our stations region-wide,” the head of the capital’s police force, Director Oscar Albayalde, said in a statement.

The incident occurred as Duterte began welcoming Southeast Asian leaders for a summit in Manila.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Brunei’s Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, on Thursday Duterte used typically defiant language as he defended his drug war and repeated his disdain for human rights.

“You know human rights (campaigners), I am not a worker for human rights,” Duterte said, after branding The New York Times newspaper an “asshole” for criticising his drug war tactics.

Watch: Duterte said in December 2016 he ‘has killed criminals’

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