At least 18 people died Thursday following a police raid in the Alemao favela in northern Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's Civil Police authorities confirmed. It was the third deadliest operation in Rio de Janeiro in less than 14 months.
The victims include a 50-year-old woman, a military policeman and 16 criminals, according to Police spokesman Ivan Blaz. The situation in the region as a whole is still quite tense after the operation against organized crime, which was necessary due to the criminal actions that the marginalized members of this community have been carrying out in different parts of the state of Rio de Janeiro, said Blaz, who also pointed out that traffickers had diversified their criminal activities, also carrying out robberies.
Police sources also confirmed that a machine gun, four rifles, and two pistols had been seized. The large-scale operation involved 400 agents of the Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE), members of the Military Police, and of the Coordination of Special Resources (Core) of the Civil Police. Four helicopters and ten vehicles were also deployed.
Rio Governor Cláudio Castro said on Twitter that he wants criminals involved in violent actions during a police operation in the Alemao Complex to be taken to federal prisons.
The Public Defender's Office of Rio de Janeiro said in a statement that it was watching the case closely, out of fear that serious human rights violations might have been committed.
The Alemao complex is a depressed favela (shantytown) north of Rio, where members of a gang dedicated to car and cargo theft and also bank robberies were said to have been hiding.
Authorities were reluctant at first to disclose the total number of casualties and spoke of four or five but since residents were posting on social media videos of corpses covered with sheets being removed from the area they were forced to admit in the evening that there were nearly 20 dead.
Two months ago, 25 people died in an action in Vila Cruzeiro, and in May last year the deadliest in the history of Rio was recorded, with 28 deaths in the community of Jacarezinho.
According to the Ombudsman's Office, Thursday's events resembled those of Jacarezinho, where a law enforcement officer was also killed.
The Police also pledged to investigate Thursday's incidents but made it clear that criminals use people who encourage such situations to happen. It is clear that if there are criticisms and complaints about the police action, they will be investigated, but what we are saying is that criminals are forcing part of the population to cause disorder during the police action, said Fabrício Oliveira, from the Civil Police.
In his weekly broadcast on social media, President Jair Bolsonaro, a retired Army captain, regretted the death of a Police corporal in the gunfight and blamed the Supreme Federal Court (STF) for a ruling restricting police actions in Rio's favelas during the COVID-19 pandemic.