10 dead in gunbattles during police raid on Rio slum complex

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Virus Outbreak Brazil - Violence

A woman is comforted as she reacts to seeing several bodies covered with linens after an armed confrontation in the Alemao slum complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, May 15, 2020. According to the civil police, 10 people were found dead during the police operation against alleged drug traffickers. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Police seeking a gang leader raided a cluster of poor neighborhoods in northern Rio de Janeiro on Friday, and authorities said 10 people died during gunbattles that they said erupted when criminals attacked officers.

The state's military police said in a statement that the local drug kingpin sought in the raid was among those killed during the operation, which was led by an elite unit known in Brazil by its Portuguese acronym BOPE.

The man's identity was not released, but officials said he had escaped prison in 2016 and was considered one of the leading drug traffickers in the Pavao-Pavaozinho and Cantagalo slums, which border Rio’s iconic Copacabana and Ipanema neighborhoods.

Authorities said officers in the operation were investigating the whereabouts of the gang leader in the Alemao favela complex and trying to confirm intelligence on a house thought to be used as a hideout for weapons when armed criminals opened fire and threw grenades in their direction. The statement said there were “multiple clashes.”

The military police said officers seized eight rifles, 85 grenades and some narcotics.

Five people were pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, while five other bodies were later carried by local residents to the entrance of the Alemao group of slums.

The bodies were laid next to one another on the street and drew a small crowd of people, some of whom were not wearing any masks despite the coronavirus pandemic. Family members at the scene cried as they covered the bodies, already wrapped in fabrics, with cardboard boxes to shelter them from the rain.

From January through March, police killed 429 people during operations in Rio de Janeiro state, down 1.6% from the same period a year earlier. Homicides have also gone down, declining 0.9% this year to 1,044 victims.