RIO DE JANEIRO — Police targeting drug traffickers raided a slum in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday and at least one officer and 24 suspect died of gunfire, authorities said.
A police helicopter flew low over the Jacarezinho favela as heavily armed men fled police by leaping from roof to roof, according to images shown on local television. Service on a subway line was temporarily suspended “due to intense shooting in the region,” according to a statement from the company that operates it.
Jacarezinho, one of the city’s most populous favelas, with some 40,000 residents, is dominated by the Comando Vermelho, one of Brazil’s leading criminal organizations. The police consider Jacarezinho to be one of the group’s headquarters.
Thursday’s operation was aimed at investigating the recruitment of teenagers to hijack trains and commit other crimes, police said in a statement.
The said the criminal gang has a “warlike structure of soldiers equipped with rifles, grenades, bulletproof vests, pistols, camouflaged clothing and other military accessories.”
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.
Many of them appear to violate a ruling by Brazil’s Supreme Court last year that ordered the police to suspend operations during the pandemic, restricting them to “absolutely exceptional” situations.
The Supreme Court didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP about whether 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.