Militarized police carry out an operation in Rio de Janeirol. EFE/André Coelho/File

Deadly police raid leads to intense gun battle in Rio slum

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 2 (EFE).- At least 10 people were killed Wednesday and three others were wounded during a police operation in a Rio de Janeiro favela targeting alleged members of one of Brazil’s largest criminal organizations.

One of the wounded is a police officer, hospital officials said.

The operation, which lasted several hours and led to an intense shootout, began in the early hours of Wednesday morning in Vila Cruzeiro, one of the slums that make up the Complexo da Penha, a dangerous set of favelas in northern Rio de Janeiro with areas controlled by drug trafficking groups.

According to Rio de Janeiro’s Public Security Secretariat, nine of the dead were members of the Comando Vermelho (‘Red Command’) who resisted police. Officers seized six rifles, grenades and ammunition.

One of the dead was Carlos Alberto Marques Toledo, who was identified as the leader of the gang that controls the drug trade in Chatuba, a favela in the western part of Rio de Janeiro.

According to the Civil Police, the operation was ordered after intelligence indicated that several Red Command leaders were meeting in Vila Cruzeiro to plan the invasion and takeover of slums controlled by rival gangs.

Agents from the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE), an elite force from Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police, and the Special Resources Coordination (Core) from the Civil Police participated in the operation.

The raid was backed up by helicopters and armored vehicles, as well as a huge mechanical shovel, which the police used to remove cement barricades set up by drug traffickers to make it difficult for cars to enter the favela.

Footage taken by the favela’s residents published on social media give an account of the intense exchange of gunfire they had to endure in the neighborhood.

Some of the videos denounce alleged police abuses and indiscriminate shooting by the uniformed officers.

Complaints of police violence in Brazil grew this week after an operation by the São Paulo Military Police elite corps left at least 14 people dead in Guarujá.

The deaths occurred in the last four days and after a police officer was killed by a drug gang in Guarujá.

Although São Paulo’s governor, Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas, defended the operation and denied allegations of police abuses, various human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have called for independent and thorough investigations. EFE