At least 18 people died in a major police raid on a dense maze of slums in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, state military police said, in the latest bloody standoff in Brazil’s second city.
Rio de Janeiro Civil and Military Police tactical teams raided the Alemao compound to eliminate a suspected criminal organization. The group was suspected of being involved in cargo thefts and bank robberies and planned raids on rival slums, military police said in a statement.
At least 18 people died in the raid: a police officer, 16 suspected criminals and a bystander, police said. The operation involved around 400 officers, four aircraft and 10 armored vehicles.
The lopsided death toll has raised fears of rights violations.
“There are signs of major human rights abuses, and the possibility that this is one of the operations with the highest death toll in Rio de Janeiro,” the public defender’s office said. State in a press release.
Military police declined to comment beyond their statement.
Rio state police forces regularly carry out deadly raids in the city’s sprawling slums. President Jair Bolsonaro supports brutal police tactics in their fight against organized crime and says gangsters should “die like cockroaches”.
After the raid, residents could be seen herding injured people into the back of vehicles to take them to hospital as police looked on. Gilberto Santiago Lopes of Anacrim’s Human Rights Commission said the police refused to help.
“We had to take them to a drink truck and then flag down a local resident in their car to take them to the hospital,” he said. “(The police) don’t aim to arrest them, they aim to kill them, so if they get hurt they think they don’t deserve help.”
Local residents were furious and yelled at the police.
“We are afraid to live here,” one resident shouted after the raid. “Where are we? Afghanistan? In a war? In Iraq? If they want war, send them to Iraq.