Terror in Brazil: Prison Gangs Kill 19 in Rio

Rio de Janeiro’s authorities cannot agree on what led criminals to launch, at dawn today, at least 12 attacks against buses and police targets leaving 19 dead and more than 20 injured . The terror lasted four hours. Among the dead two were policemen and seven suspect criminals.

Astério Pereira dos Santos, secretary of the Penitentiary Administration, says that he had received information at least two months ago that the organized crime was preparing the assaults in response to Rio’s police action to expelling drug lords from the city’s favelas.

Santos said that he had passed this information to the Security Secretariat as well as the federal government’s intelligence organs.

For Roberto Precioso, Rio’s Public Security secretary, the attacks were an attempt to intimidate the new government which is being inaugurated on January 1st.

Precioso doesn’t accept the explanation that the assaults were in reprisal for the action of the militias (groups formed by policemen) who have been expelling drug traffickers and taking control in some favelas.

The secretary said he believes that police were able to prevent the worst from happening. He mentioned the killing of six gunmen and the arrest of another three. The order for the attacks, he says, came from inside the prisons.

There were confrontations between police and drug traffickers in the favelas of Arará, in the harbor area and Mineira, in the Catumbi neighborhood. Two suspects were killed during this action.

At least seven buses were attacked. In just one bus from Viação Itapemerim the Fire Department found seven bodies. Several people who were hurt were taken to the Getúlio Vargas state hospital. The interstate bus had left from Cachoeiro do Itapemirim in the state of Espí­rito Santo and was on its way to São Paulo.

About 30 men stopped the bus, according to a passenger. They then robbed the passengers and set the vehicle on fire. There were 28 people inside. Just a few of them were able to break the bus windows and get out.

Three other buses were burned on the west side. In Alto da Boa Vista, a police shelter was hit by gunshots. Two policemen were shot and had to be taken to the hospital. Some of their colleagues chased the gunmen, but they were able to escape.

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