Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says she is determined to continue her campaign against illegal drugs despite growing criticism among human rights groups and rival political parties over the rising death toll in the crackdown.

She has also defended the security forces for the so-called gunfights during anti-narcotics raids, with the toll in such incidents having risen to 117 so far.

The prime minister made her position clear on the issue at a news conference at the Ganabhaban Wednesday on her recent two-day India tour.

“Drugs spread like a disease in society. You also wrote against drugs in newspapers,” she said.

“And now you are judging the drives in details. Don’t you want the crackdown to continue?” she asked journalists.

Hasina renewed her pledge to toughen the anti-drug campaign. “Nobody will be spared however influential he may be.”

Human rights groups have demanded separate investigations into the deaths during the anti-drug operations, calling these ‘extrajudicial killings’.

The BNP fears the ruling Awami League may use the crackdown to suppress dissent.

Earlier on Wednesday, US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat met Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and expressed concern over the deaths in ‘gunfights’.

“Some incidents naturally occur during such operations when police or RAB face an unwanted situation,” Hasina said, referring to the law enforcers’ claim that the gunfights took place only when the suspects fired their guns.

The prime minister also said her government was ready to try any ‘misdeeds’ during the raids.

“Please show me at least one example where an innocent person has been victimised. We will definitely take steps if any such thing happens,” she said.