Police killings in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state reach record high

Orlando Dos Santos stands at a car workshop in Rio de Janeiro where he works during an interview with AP on May 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Updated 04 May 2019
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Police killings in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state reach record high

  • Police forces in Rio killed 434 people during clashes in the first quarter of 2019
  • The rise comes under the watch of Gov. Wilson Witzel, who calls drug traffickers “narco-terrorists”

RIO DE JANEIRO: Police killings in the state of Rio de Janeiro have hit a record high, rising by 18% in the first three months of this year in a spike partly attributed to a zero tolerance for criminals campaign by state leaders.
Official data reviewed by The Associated Press show police forces in Rio killed 434 people during clashes in those months, compared to 368 people in same period last year.
The number, released on April 17, is the highest since record keeping began in 1998.
The rise comes under the watch of Gov. Wilson Witzel, a former marine and political ally of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Witzel has promised a zero tolerance policy against criminals, calling drug traffickers “narco-terrorists” and vowing to ease gun possession laws.
On the campaign trail, he said he wanted to send sharp shooters aboard helicopters to target armed criminal in favelas. Weeks ago, the governor acknowledged that police were using shooters.
The police communications department declined to comment about the latest statistics.
“Even though there is no direct order (to kill), you have a governor and officials that use this language, that we should commemorate the deaths of suspects, that a (police) operation was successful when there were nine or 10 deaths,” said Felippe Angeli, a public security expert with the Sou da Paz institute in Brazil. “This ends up having an impact.”
Police killings in the state, however, did not begin with the current administration, sworn in on Jan. 1.
Last June, Orlando Dos Santos found out his 27-year-old stepson had disappeared in the wake of a police operation in the Babilonia slum, which sits on a hill behind the city’s iconic Sugarloaf mountain.
The following day, guided by local residents, Dos Santos and other people whose relatives had also disappeared, began searching with the help of the local fire department. They found seven bodies at the bottom of a cliff, which were later linked to the police operation.
Dos Santos’s stepson, whom he said had gotten involved with criminal groups not long before the police crackdown, was never found.
“The place where they were found and the way their bodies were, made it very clear that it had been an execution,” Dos Santos, a car mechanic, told The Associated Press.
Police killings have intensified in the last couple of years.
Since 2013, the number of victims in Brazilian police operations has continued to rise from 416 victims to 1,534 last year.
In 2018, the military was put in charge of Rio state’s security forces. Rates for crimes such as theft dropped, but critics say structural problems remained unsolved.
Widespread violence is a historical problem in Brazil and in Rio, one of its main tourist destinations.
Paulo Storani, former deputy commander of an elite squad of officers known by the acronym BOPE, said the increase in the number of deaths is a “natural” consequence of the police’s decision to try to recover territories abandoned by the state to organized crime for many years.
“There is no license to kill in the police. The criminals are armed with weapons of war and police are oriented to recover territories. There are violent confrontations because the criminals were strengthened by the inaction of past governments,” Storani said.
In parallel, overall homicides in the state have declined by 26% in the first three months of the year to 1,046 registered deaths.
But some experts fear the government’s rhetoric combined with their desire to pass legislation facilitating gun possession will further deepen the crisis.
“Violence engenders more violence,” Dos Santos said. “I think the duty of the police officer is to catch, apprehend and for the justice to judge.”


‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

Updated 21 May 2019
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‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

  • Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise
  • It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago

COLOMBO: One month after the Sri Lanka suicide attacks that killed more than 250 people, investigators have told AFP the bombers used “Mother of Satan” explosives favored by the Daesh group that are a new sign of foreign involvement.
Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise.
They named the explosive as triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, an unstable but easily made mixture favored by Daesh militants who call it “Mother of Satan.”
It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago.
Daesh has claimed the Sri Lankan bombers operated as part of its franchise. But Sri Lankan and international investigators are anxious to know just how much outside help went into the attacks that left 258 dead and 500 injured.
“The group had easy access to chemicals and fertilizer to get the raw materials to make TATP,” an official involved in the investigation told AFP.
Sri Lankan detectives say the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), local militants blamed for the attacks, must have had foreign help to assemble the bombs.

“They would have had a face-to-face meeting to transfer this technology. This is not something you can do by watching a YouTube video,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Investigators had initially believed that C4 explosives — a favored weapon of Tamil Tiger rebels — were used, but forensic tests found TATP which causes more burning than C4.
Police have also confirmed that 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives found in January in the island’s northwest was TATP.
They are checking the travel records of the suicide bombers as well as foreign suspects to see when and where bomb-making lessons could have been staged.
“It looks like they used a cocktail of TATP and gelignite and some chemicals in the Easter attacks. They were short of the 100 kilos of raw TATP that were seized in January,” said the investigator.
Sri Lankan security forces have staged a series of raids since the bombings. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Sunday that 89 suspects are in custody.
Army chief Mahesh Senanayake said last week that at least two suspects have been arrested in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, underscoring the international link.
On April 26, six militants, three widows of the suicide bombers and six of their children were killed at an NTJ safe house near the eastern coastal town of Kalmunai.
Police found large quantities of chemicals and fertilizer there that was probably meant to make bombs, authorities said.
The government has admitted that Indian warnings of the looming attacks in early April were ignored.
But President Maithripala Sirisena has said eight countries are helping the investigation. A US Federal Bureau of Investigation team is in Sri Lanka and Britain, Australia and India have provided forensic and technical support.
China offered a fleet of vehicles to bolster the mobility of the security forces tracking down militants.

The Sri Lankan who led the attacks, Zahran Hashim, was known to have traveled to India in the months before he became one of the suicide bombers.
Moderate Muslims had warned authorities about the radical cleric who first set off alarm bells in 2017 when he threatened non-Muslims.
He was one of two bombers who killed dozens of victims at Colombo’s Shangri-La hotel on April 21.
Army chief Senanayake said Hashim had traveled to Tamil Nadu state in southern India and been in contact with extremists there.
Hashim, one of seven bombers who staged the attacks, also appeared in an Daesh group video that claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Another bomber who was meant to have hit a fourth hotel, has been named as Abdul Latheef Jameel who studied aviation engineering in Britain and Australia.
Authorities in the two countries are investigating whether he was radicalized whilst abroad.
Jameel blew himself up when confronted at a hideout after the attacks.