Brazilian authorities have said that at least nine people were killed during a police raid in the city of Rio de Janeiro, the latest case of violence stemming from law enforcement activity in the city’s poor favela neighbourhoods.
Police said that Wednesday’s operation was focused on targeting criminal gangs in the Complexo da Penha, a network of favelas in the north of the city.
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“A clash occurred when police teams came under attack by gunmen at the scene,” the police said in a statement. The operation was launched after police received information about a meeting of high-level gang leaders.
Eleven suspects were wounded in the attack, and nine died of their injuries. One officer was taken to the hospital and is in stable condition.
The raid brings the total number slain in similar operations over the last six days to 42. Brazil’s police forces have said they are locked in a deadly battle with powerful criminal groups, but criminal justice groups have accused them of corruption and human rights abuses.
Police raids are a persistent source of controversy in Brazil, where pro-law enforcement politicians defend the operations as a necessary part of the fight against criminal groups. Critics, meanwhile, allege that police kill indiscriminately in poor neighbourhoods, collaborate with paramilitary groups, and take part in criminal activity themselves.
Brazil’s right-wing former President Jair Bolsonaro, who once said criminals should “die like cockroaches”, waived aside concerns about rights abuses by police. He was a firm ally of Brazil’s “bullet lobby”, a term for the political forces that coalesce around support for police, anti-crime measures and wider access to firearms.
Residents of poor neighbourhoods targeted in the raids sometimes contest the version of events portrayed in official police reports about violent incidents.
For example, after a July 2022 raid in Rio de Janeiro’s Complexo do Alemao favela, a resident told The Associated Press, “It’s a massacre inside, which police are calling an operation.” That raid killed at least 18 people.