Brazil protests: Rio favela police operation leaves nine dead

SAO PAULO, Brazil — At least nine people are dead after a gun battle broke out in a Rio de Janeiro favela between BOPE police and drug dealers, following a protest against an operation by the special forces.

The clashes started on Monday evening in the northern neighborhood of Bonsucesso after a peaceful demonstration against a BOPE operation in the nearby Complexo da Mare favela. The protests reportedly ended in mass robberies near Rio's main access road, Avenida Brasil.

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Hundreds of officers from the police and National Guard were deployed, along with a tank, to secure the area.

Nine people were also arrested during the confrontation, which lasted into the early morning hours Tuesday. Edson Ezequiel Bezerril, 28, was arrested for allegedly killing BOPE Sergeant Ednelson Jeronimo dos Santos Silva, 42, during the exchange of gunfire.

Rodrigo da Silva, 28, was arrested for drug trafficking and assault with a deadly weapon.

Police said protesters, passers-by and shops had been robbed by a group of criminals, who they followed into the Mare favela after they left Avenida Brasil.

The clashes took place inside the favela, where the BOPE sergeant was killed. A civilian returning home was shot in the head after being caught in the crossfire, and another seven civilians also died.

Local schools remained closed on Tuesday, keeping thousands of children home.

The Mare area is home to more than 130,000 people and has yet to be the subject of the Rio police's pacification program, which works to encourage favela residents to push out drug traffickers.