Shootouts leave at least 20 dead in Brazil
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Shootouts involving drug gangs and police Tuesday left at least 20 alleged gang members dead and sent mourners in a cemetery fleeing from gunfire, officials said.The deaths are the latest in an upsurge of killing that has made Rio de Janeiro one of Brazil’s most violence-plagued cities with an annual homicide rate of around 50 per 100,000 residents. Most of the killings have occurred in the city’s more than 600 shantytowns, controlled primarily by heavily armed drug gangs.At least 14 alleged drug gang members were killed in an hours-long shootout in the Mineira shantytown near Rio De Janeiro’s downtown district, said a police spokeswoman who declined to be identified according to department policy.”We’re not finished wrapping up the operation, the number could rise higher still,” she said.It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the victims were killed by rival gangs and how many by police, she said.In a second, apparently unrelated shootout, police killed six alleged drug gang members in a shantytown on Rio’s west side.”The situation is under control now. We did what we had to do,” state police Col. Samuel Dionisio said in a televised interview. “It was a relatively happy action for the police because we managed to avoid something more serious.”Police arrested eight alleged drug gang members and recovered several weapons including a hand grenade, Dionisio said.The shooting at Mineira began early Tuesday when rival gangs from the Mangueira and Alemao shantytowns tried to seize control of lucrative drug dealing spots, police said.Police surrounded Mineira in an attempt to quell the fighting as the shootout spilled over into the Catumbi neighborhood and shut down a major tunnel connecting Rio’s south and north sides. The shooting also spilled into a neighboring cemetery, where four burials had to be canceled, local media reported.