Police say an early morning raid on Rio de Janeiro’s favela community aimed to arrest leaders of a group of drug smugglers.
At least 11 people have been killed in a Brazilian police raid on an impoverished favela community on the north side of Rio de Janeiro.
Police said Tuesday morning’s raid on the Vila Cruzeiro favela aimed to arrest the leaders of a drug trafficking organization.
Among the dead was a woman who was hit in a gunfight. Police said 10 suspected gang members who resisted the operation and opened fire on police with automatic weapons were also killed.
“It was a very intense confrontation,” Colonel Ivan Blaz, spokesman for the militarized police force leading the operation, told reporters. He said the woman could have been hit by a shot fired from Vila Cruzeiro.
Residents said on social media that heavy shootings started after dark at 4 a.m. local time (07:00 GMT) in a wooded area adjacent to the community, sparking fear and panic.
Vila Cruzeiro, a favela crowded on a hill not far from Rio de Janeiro’s international airport, was already the scene of violent clashes in February, when police killed eight people.
Tuesday’s raid was the latest deadly police operation in a Rio de Janeiro favela, which has raised concerns from human rights groups for years.
Last May, more than two dozen people were killed in a raid on the city’s Jacarezinho favela.
That operation sparked outrage and protests among residents, who said they felt terrorized and trapped in their communities, and called for an independent investigation by human rights groups and UN officials.
“We remind the Brazilian authorities that the use of force should only be used when strictly necessary and that they should always respect the principles of legality, precaution, necessity and proportionality,” said a spokesman for the High Commissioner for Human Rights. of the UN in May. 2021 on that particular incident.
“Lethal force should be used as a last resort and only in cases where there is an imminent threat to life or serious injury.”
Tuesday’s operation in Vila Cruzeiro was criticized for using overwhelming force.
“Another massacre. Schools closed, thousands of people terrorized,” leftist councilor Tarcisio Motta wrote on Twitter. “The eradication policy is running its course in Rio.”
Brazilian news website G1 said the raid on Vila Cruzeiro targeted the Comando Vermelho, or Red Command, one of Brazil’s most powerful crime gangs.
Police said there were gunfights in the higher elevations of the favela itself and in the wooded grounds surrounding it.
Police seized seven rifles, five handguns, ten motorcycles and six cars in Tuesday’s raid.
The Brazilian police are among the deadliest in the world, responsible for more than 6,100 fatalities in 2021, or an average of 17 per day, according to the count of the G1 Violence Monitor in partnership with the University of Sao Paulo and the non-governmental Public Safety Forum.