Brazil police break up death squad
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Brazilian police Thursday broke up a gang accused of killing hundreds of people over several years, arresting 18 suspects and searching for 10 others, officials said.Made up of police officers, hired guns and businessmen, the gang charged $500 to $2,500 for each contract killing, said Jorge Pontes, federal police superintendent in northeastern Recife city. He said the gang carried out up to 200 killings a year over the past five years, most of them linked to loan sharking.The ring was also involved in drug and gun trafficking, he said.Federal police said the gang’s two leaders, various people involved handling the gang’s finances, and several police were among those arrested or wanted. The police in the death squad acted mainly to remove evidence from crime scenes, police said.The gang operated mostly in Pernambuco state, some 1,200 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro, but also carried out killings in other states.Police said the investigation into the group began in February and involved some 350 agents from six states. It said the biggest obstacle was collecting evidence while trying to prevent killings.Death squads, sometimes that include police officers, gained international attention in 1992 when police officers killed eight street children while they slept outside Rio de Janeiro’s Candelaria church.In March 2005, a group of police linked to a death squad killed 29 people, seemingly at random, apparently in anger over corruption allegations against police.