Police anti-drug raids in Brazil leave dozens dead

Police anti-drug raids in Brazil leave dozens dead

Nine people have died in Rio de Janeiro,19 were killed in Bahia and 16 died in Sao Paulo since raids began last week

By Laura Gamba

BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - At least nine people were killed Wednesday in a police operation in Rio de Janeiro in the latest in a series of anti-drug raids in Brazil that have left at least 44 people dead since Friday, said authorities.

The operation by security forces took place in Complexo da Penha, a cluster of favelas in northern Rio.

On Sunday, there were 16 deaths in Sao Paulo state and 19 people were reportedly killed in the northeastern state of Bahia between Friday and Monday.

The action in Rio was aimed at "locating and arresting members of criminal groups" in the region whose leaders were scheduled to meet, military police said.

"A clash occurred when police teams came under attack by gunmen at the scene," said Military Police spokesperson Colonel Marco Andrade.

Eleven suspects were wounded and taken to the hospital. Nine died, including two alleged drug gang leaders. Seven rifles, ammunition and grenades were seized, according to Andrade.

The catalyst for the police raids was the shooting death of military police officer Patrick Bastos Reis a week ago during a patrol in the municipality of Guaruja, some 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the capital, Sao Paulo.

In response, the police launched ‘Operation Escudo’ against organized crime, resulting in 58 arrests and an increasing number of deaths which have prompted a reaction from various human rights groups.

“We regret that the operation following the death of a (military) police officer in Guaruja, Sao Paulo has resulted in the deaths of 12 people and allegations of torture,” Juanita Goebertus, director of Human Rights Watch's Americas division, said on Aug 1.

“The Public Prosecutor's Office must conduct an independent investigation to stop police violence and ensure security,” she added.

The country’s Minister of Justice, Flavio Dino, said the reaction of the security forces did not seem to him "proportional in relation to the crimes committed.”

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