A rooftops and alleyways gun battle in a Rio de Janeiro favela has left 25 people dead, according to local media.
A policeman was among those killed. Two passengers on a passing metro train were hit by bullets but survived.
The shoot-out on Thursday took place during a police operation in a favela, or slum, in the Jacarezinho area of the glamorous but violent Brazilian city.
According to local news, the gang targeted in this raid is tied up with drug trafficking, mugging, murder and kidnappings.
Police launched the operation against them allegedly after receiving reports that they were recruiting children as runners for their gang.
Television images showed suspects trying to escape across rooftops as police stormed the favela.
One slum resident posted a photo of his blood-covered floor and said two people had been killed in his house as police chased them. The man, who did not want to give his name, said he would try to move out of the area as soon as possible.
“We can’t continue to live here,” he said.
Other residents said officers had seized their phones, accusing them of warning gang members of the raid.
Sociology professor Ignacio Cano from the Laboratory for the Analysis of Violence at Rio State University dismissed the reasons the police gave for the raid: “Everyone knows these gangs have minors working for them. To say that you’re going to launch a massive raid because you’ve discovered that dealers recruit children is a joke,” he told O Dia newspaper.
Rio de Janeiro is one of Brazil’s most violent states and vast areas are under the control of criminals, many of them linked to powerful international drug-trafficking organisations.
Security forces in Brazil have often been accused of using excessive force against the civilian population during anti-crime operations in major cities.
A court ruling last June restricted police action in poor neighbourhoods of Rio during the pandemic unless it was deemed essential. Initial reports indicate that crime actually went down rather than up as a result.
Police operations targeting favelas controlled by drug traffickers are quite common in Rio. This, however, is the deadliest operation since 2016.