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11 cops arrested in Rio massacre

Brazilian authorities have arrested 11 police officers over the killing of 30 people in a shooting rampage on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, the state security chief said on Monday.
/ Source: Reuters

Brazilian authorities have arrested 11 police officers over the killing of 30 people in a shooting rampage on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, the state security chief said on Monday.

The Thursday night slaughter, which is suspected of being a response to a crackdown on corrupt police officers, was the worst massacre in more than a decade in the violent seaside city.

The gunmen shot dead men, women and children at random in the working class district of Baixada Fluminense on Rio’s rough north side.

Security chief Marcelo Itagiba said not all the 11 prisoners, members of the state military police force, had necessarily taken part in the slaughter but they needed to explain what they were doing in the Baixada Fluminense area on that day. Another police officer is still being sought.

Federal police investigators had unconfirmed information that the gunmen were linked to death squads that operate in Baixada Fluminense, federal police superintendent Gilberto Milton Rodrigues said.

State authorities have said rogue military police likely carried out the massacre in reprisal for the arrests of eight officers suspected of a separate double murder. Because of their rigid organizational style, Brazil’s street cops are known as military police but they are not affiliated with the army or federal government.

The arrests were part of a drive against corruption and criminal activity by police in Rio. The city is plagued by violent crime, with rival drugs gangs controlling many slum areas and defying authorities.

International human rights groups say Rio police have a history of summary executions. Officials said police killed 983 “suspects” last year and 1,195 in 2003. Last year, some 50 Rio police were killed in the line of duty.

Troops from a new National Security Force are to deploy in Rio this week but Itagiba said the operation was not connected to the massacre investigation. They had planned to move into the city last month but were delayed, he said. The force will concentrate on fighting the drugs gangs and arms trade.