Police in Rio de Janeiro have arrested 12 people suspected of setting fire to 35 buses Monday after a leader of one of the Brazilian city’s paramilitary forces was killed in a police operation.
The destruction was in apparent retaliation for an operation that Rio de Janeiro state Governor Claudio Castro described as a “heavy blow” to the militia. The man killed has been identified by the Britain-based Guardian newspaper as Matheus da Silva Rezende, the nephew of the militia’s leader known as “the Lord of War.”
Numerous paramilitary forces operate in Rio de Janeiro. The groups were initially formed by off-duty police officers and prison guards to protect residents in the city’s impoverished neighborhoods from illicit drug gangs, but have since evolved into criminal gangs themselves, involved in several rackets.
The 35 buses that were torched were located on Rio’s west side, where rival criminal groups are fighting for territorial control. A train car was also burned in Monday’s rampage. Governor Castro said the 12 suspects would be charged with “terrorist actions.”
The attacks disrupted public transportation for many parts of Rio de Janeiro and forced the closure of several schools.