Police in the Philippines said that 32 drug suspects had been killed in a span of 24 hours in one of the bloodiest days since President Rodrigo Duterte launched an initiative last year to fight the narcotics trade.

Police officers killed 32 suspects and arrested 107 in a large scale operation carried out between Monday and Tuesday in Bulacan province, the provincial police said in a statement on Wednesday.

The authorities conducted 49 raids and seized 367 bags of shabu — a hydrochloride of methamphetamine — 765 grams of marijuana, 2 grenades, 34 assorted firearms and 114 pieces of ammunition, Efe news quoted the statement as saying.

The high number of deaths in such a short window is unusual, even by the bloody standards of Duterte’s war on drugs which has already caused 3,451 deaths in police operations across the country, according to official figures.

Human Rights Watch, however places the death toll at over 7,000 since July last year, including those killed by vigilante groups and other killings encouraged by an environment of impunity.

Police justified its actions by arguing that the killed suspects were notorious criminals who preferred to fight to the death rather than get captured, leaving the officers with no choice but to shoot and kill.

The police declared the operation successful and said it was part of their drive against illegal drugs, loose firearms and implementation of search warrants in the province.

The war on drugs has been heavily criticized by international organisations who accuse the president of violating human rights, although he has vowed to continue the campaign until the eradication of drug trafficking and crime from the country.