Residents comfort a wounded man as he is placed in the back of a truck after a police operation that resulted in multiple deaths in a Brazilian favela

Favela massacre leaves at least 18 dead as 400 heavily-armed cops swarm on Rio de Janeiro slum

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At least 18 people have been killed in a horror massacre in a Brazilian favela after 400 armed police raided the slum home to an organised crime group.

A local woman, an officer and 16 gang members were among the dead in Complexo do Alemao after the hours-long shootout which saw police helicopters trading fire with the targets after a dawn raid.

Officers were backed up by ten bulletproof vehicles and four helicopters as they tried to crack down on the criminal group that had robbed vehicles carrying cargo for banks and other businesses.

Videos circulating on social media showed intense shootouts between criminals as well as a police helicopter flying low over the small, brick houses, and barricades set on fire to prevent the passage of security forces.

Residents waved white towels and sheets in a signal to surrender but the slaughter continued, with locals carrying the bodies of the dead wrapped in blankets through the impoverished streets.

Residents comfort a wounded man as he is placed in the back of a truck after a police operation that resulted in multiple deaths in a Brazilian favela

Residents comfort a wounded man as he is placed in the back of a truck after a police operation that resulted in multiple deaths in a Brazilian favela

A police officer desperately tries to remove tires set on fire by residents to protest the raid in the Complexo do Alemao favela

A police officer desperately tries to remove tires set on fire by residents to protest the raid in the Complexo do Alemao favela

A police officer desperately tries to remove tires set on fire by residents to protest the raid in the Complexo do Alemao favela

Multiple deaths were reported during the raid that was targeting a criminal group in Rio largest complex of favelas, or low-income communities, that stole vehicles, cargo and banks

Multiple deaths were reported during the raid that was targeting a criminal group in Rio largest complex of favelas, or low-income communities, that stole vehicles, cargo and banks

Multiple deaths were reported during the raid that was targeting a criminal group in Rio largest complex of favelas, or low-income communities, that stole vehicles, cargo and banks

A resident of the Complexo do Alemao favela gets down on her knees and pleads with the armed officers to stop the horrific violence

A resident of the Complexo do Alemao favela gets down on her knees and pleads with the armed officers to stop the horrific violence

A resident of the Complexo do Alemao favela gets down on her knees and pleads with the armed officers to stop the horrific violence

A dead body is shrouded in a blanket and transported on a cart after the bloodshed which saw at least 18 people killed

A dead body is shrouded in a blanket and transported on a cart after the bloodshed which saw at least 18 people killed

A dead body is shrouded in a blanket and transported on a cart after the bloodshed which saw at least 18 people killed

Bodies of dead men are seen covered with blankets after residents carried them to Complexo do Alemao's main street to be taken to a hospital

Bodies of dead men are seen covered with blankets after residents carried them to Complexo do Alemao's main street to be taken to a hospital

Bodies of dead men are seen covered with blankets after residents carried them to Complexo do Alemao’s main street to be taken to a hospital

Residents wave white flags in front of an armoured police vehicle as more than 400 officers swarmed the impoverished neighbourhood

Residents wave white flags in front of an armoured police vehicle as more than 400 officers swarmed the impoverished neighbourhood

Residents wave white flags in front of an armoured police vehicle as more than 400 officers swarmed the impoverished neighbourhood

At the site of the raid, residents carried about 10 bodies as bystanders shouted, ‘We want peace!’

‘It’s a massacre inside, which police are calling an operation,’ one woman told AP, speaking on the condition of anonymity because she feared reprisals from authorities. ‘They’re not letting us help (victims),’ she added, saying she saw one man arrested for attempting to do so.

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Law enforcement authorities defended their officers’ conduct during the operation, saying that units had been ‘violently attacked’ with ‘military and guerrilla’ tactics, while accusing the alleged gang members of using civilians as human shields. 

Thursday’s operation began before dawn and finished around 4 pm local time, police said. Nearly 400 police officers were involved, including Rio’s tactical police unit, according to the police statement. 

Ronaldo Oliveira, an investigator with Rio’s police force, said officials would have rather just made arrests of suspects ‘but unfortunately they chose to fire at our policemen.’ 

Thursday's operation began before dawn and finished around 4 pm local time, police said, and 400 police officers were involved, including Rio's tactical police unit

Thursday's operation began before dawn and finished around 4 pm local time, police said, and 400 police officers were involved, including Rio's tactical police unit

Thursday’s operation began before dawn and finished around 4 pm local time, police said, and 400 police officers were involved, including Rio’s tactical police unit

Police use tear gas to disperse mototaxi service drivers protesting against their operation in the Complexo do Alemao favela

Police use tear gas to disperse mototaxi service drivers protesting against their operation in the Complexo do Alemao favela

Police use tear gas to disperse mototaxi service drivers protesting against their operation in the Complexo do Alemao favela

A wounded man is carried on a wheelbarrow by local residents after the massacre on the streets of the low-income neighbourhood

A wounded man is carried on a wheelbarrow by local residents after the massacre on the streets of the low-income neighbourhood

A wounded man is carried on a wheelbarrow by local residents after the massacre on the streets of the low-income neighbourhood

Law enforcement authorities defended their officers' conduct during the operation, saying that units had been 'violently attacked'

Law enforcement authorities defended their officers' conduct during the operation, saying that units had been 'violently attacked'

Law enforcement authorities defended their officers’ conduct during the operation, saying that units had been ‘violently attacked’

Police spokesman Ivan Blaz said the operation’s goal was to stop the ‘expansionist policy’ of criminal gangs in Complexo do Alemao.

President Jair Bolsonaro lamented the death of the police officer, 38-year-old Bruno de Paula Costa, but did not mention any of the other people killed.

‘He died after a clash with criminals,’ the far-right leader said in a statement broadcast on social media.

Colonel Rogerio Lobasso, the officer in charge of the operation, expressed his condolences over the 50-year-old woman’s death, which he said is under investigation.

Her boyfriend told news site G1 that police had shot her while they were stopped at a traffic light.

‘They shot at the car. I just saw her collapse next to me. When I looked, she had a hole in her chest,’ said Denilson Gloria.

Police often carry out raids in Rio’s slums in a bid to fight organized crime and drug trafficking.

Residents of the Complexo do Alemao favela carry the corpse of a dead man during a police raid in Rio de Janeiro yesterday

Residents of the Complexo do Alemao favela carry the corpse of a dead man during a police raid in Rio de Janeiro yesterday

Residents of the Complexo do Alemao favela carry the corpse of a dead man during a police raid in Rio de Janeiro yesterday

Human rights group Amnesty International said on Twitter that prosecutors must immediately investigate policemen involved in Thursday's raid

Human rights group Amnesty International said on Twitter that prosecutors must immediately investigate policemen involved in Thursday's raid

Human rights group Amnesty International said on Twitter that prosecutors must immediately investigate policemen involved in Thursday’s raid

Officers were backed up by 10 bullet-proof vehicles and four helicopters as they tried to crack down on the criminal group

Officers were backed up by 10 bullet-proof vehicles and four helicopters as they tried to crack down on the criminal group

Officers were backed up by 10 bullet-proof vehicles and four helicopters as they tried to crack down on the criminal group

At the site of the raid, residents carried about 10 bodies as bystanders shouted, 'We want peace!'

At the site of the raid, residents carried about 10 bodies as bystanders shouted, 'We want peace!'

At the site of the raid, residents carried about 10 bodies as bystanders shouted, ‘We want peace!’

Members of the Military Police carry out an operation against organised crime, at the Alemao favela, north of Rio de Janeiro

Members of the Military Police carry out an operation against organised crime, at the Alemao favela, north of Rio de Janeiro

Members of the Military Police carry out an operation against organised crime, at the Alemao favela, north of Rio de Janeiro

Men and women hold up white towels and sheets to indicate their surrender to the encircling police forces

Men and women hold up white towels and sheets to indicate their surrender to the encircling police forces

Men and women hold up white towels and sheets to indicate their surrender to the encircling police forces

In May, 22 people were killed, also including a female bystander, in an early morning raid of the Vila Cruzeiro favela.

That came almost a year after Rio’s deadliest police raid, in which 28 people were killed in the Jacarezinho slum.

Like the raid in May, Thursday’s police operation was criticized by locals for the use of overwhelming force.

Activists have denounced official abuse during such anti-crime operations, including extrajudicial killings of suspects, which they say often goes unpunished.

Rio police officers were due to begin wearing body cameras this year, which some security experts believe may help prevent some, but not all, problems of police abuse.

It was not immediately clear whether police were wearing body cameras during the Complexo do Alemao raid.

Brazil will also hold presidential elections in October with security a key issue and Bolsonaro touting a tough-on-crime approach.

Elite bodies of the Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro and the Civil Police carried out an operation to combat criminal gangs

Elite bodies of the Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro and the Civil Police carried out an operation to combat criminal gangs

Elite bodies of the Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro and the Civil Police carried out an operation to combat criminal gangs

Alemao is a complex of 13 favelas in northern Rio, home to about 70,000 people of mainly black or mixed race origins

Alemao is a complex of 13 favelas in northern Rio, home to about 70,000 people of mainly black or mixed race origins

Alemao is a complex of 13 favelas in northern Rio, home to about 70,000 people of mainly black or mixed race origins

Police often carry out raids in Rio's slums in a bid to fight organized crime and drug trafficking

Police often carry out raids in Rio's slums in a bid to fight organized crime and drug trafficking

Police often carry out raids in Rio’s slums in a bid to fight organized crime and drug trafficking

Robert Muggah, co-founder of Igarape Institute, a Rio de Janeiro-based think tank focused on security, said Thursday’s raid is ‘a symptom of failed leadership and an institutional culture that condones excessive force.’

‘The killings resulting from large scale police operations is a grim reminder that militarized policing is not only ineffective, it is counterproductive,’ Muggah said in a text message, adding those raids generate ‘extreme violence predominantly affecting low-income Black populations while also corroding the trust between residents and law enforcement.’

Alemao is a complex of 13 favelas in northern Rio, home to about 70,000 people. Nearly three-quarters of them at Black or biracial, according to a July 2020 study published by the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economical Analyses.

Earlier this year, Brazil’s Supreme Court established a series of conditions for police to conduct raids in Rio’s favelas as a means to reduce police killings and human rights violations. The court ordered that lethal force be used only in situations in which all other means have been exhausted and when necessary to protect life.

In a video shared by Voz da Comunidade, a community news outlet focused on Rio’s favelas, residents can be seen calling for peace and waving white cloths from their windows and rooftops.

Fabricio Oliveira, one of the coordinators of the police raid, said authorities fear that Friday could be another violent day at the Complexo do Alemao.

‘Our experience has told us that after raids like these police are attacked in every way,’ Oliveira said.

Human rights group Amnesty International said on Twitter that prosecutors must immediately investigate policemen involved in Thursday’s raid.

‘WHO WILL STOP Gov. Claudio Castro and his disastrous and rights violating public security policies in Rio de Janeiro,’ the non-profit said. ‘Enough of so much brutality! THE FAVELA WANTS TO LIVE!’

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