Police say operation aimed to stop Comando Vermelho criminal organisation from recruiting teens for train hijackings.
At least 25 people, including a police officer, were killed in a shoot-out on Thursday during an operation against drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro’s Jacarezinho slum, police said.
Suspects tried to escape across rooftops as police entered the slum in armoured vehicles and helicopters flew overhead, television images showed. The intense firefight kept residents in their homes.
Three policemen were shot and one died of a head wound in hospital, police said.
Bullets fired during the battle struck a light rail coach and two passengers were hurt by shattered glass from the broken window, the fire brigade said.
Jacarezinho is one of the city’s most populous poor neighbourhoods, known as favelas, with some 40,000 residents.
It is dominated by the Comando Vermelho, one of Brazil’s leading criminal organisations. The police consider Jacarezinho to be one of the group’s headquarters.
Thursday’s operation was aimed at investigating the organisation’s recruitment of teenagers to hijack trains and commit other crimes, police said in a statement.
They said the criminal gang has a “warlike structure of soldiers equipped with rifles, grenades, bulletproof vests, pistols, camouflaged clothing and other military accessories”.
Police said that among the dead in Jacarezinho were Comando Vermelho leaders.
The Candido Mendes University’s Public Safety Observatory said that at least 12 police operations in Rio state this year have resulted in three or more deaths.
Observatory director Silvio Ramos said Thursday’s raid was among the deadliest in the city’s recent history.
“This is the largest number of deaths in a police operation in Rio, surpassing 19 at Complexo do Alemão slum in 2007, except we did not lose one of ours in that action,” police chief Ronaldo Oliveira confirmed to Reuters.
Many of the raids appear to violate a ruling by Brazil’s Supreme Court last year that ordered the police to suspend operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is raging in Brazil, restricting them to “absolutely exceptional” situations.
Foram 23 mortos. E isso é chamado de política de segurança. Para quem?https://t.co/BCsqPRlLuw pic.twitter.com/kIj2vC6H5Y
— Pablo Nunes (@pblnns) May 6, 2021
Tweet reads: There were 23 dead. And this is called security policy. [Security] For who?
The Supreme Court declined to comment when asked by The Associated Press if Thursday’s operation would qualify.
Rio police killed an average of more than five people a day during the first quarter of 2021, the most lethal start of a year since the state government began regularly releasing such data more than two decades ago, according to the Observatory.
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