By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Authorities found seven bodies located in the hills surrounding Praia Vermelha, in Urca, in the Zona Sul of Rio, believed to be that of drug dealers who died after violent confrontations with military personnel on Friday. The confrontation halted cable cars to one of Rio’s iconic tourist spots, Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain).
According to authorities the seven men died after military police tried to stop a drug war between two rival groups in the Morro da Babilonia and Chapeu Mangueira, both favela communities located in the Leme neighborhood.
Family members of the dead men admitted to local media that the males were involved in drug trafficking but also accused the military police of executing them.
“They took the boys, disarmed the boys, then shot them in the head and threw them off the rock. Rio police slaughtered our relatives,” a family member who wanted to remain anonymous told TV Globo.
The neighborhoods of Leme and Urca are separated by a large rock formation and wooded area below. Last week a gang war erupted in Leme with both groups trying to gain control of the two favela communities.
When the violence escalated, military police decided to intervene, since Urca has large army military base and military school and Leme also possesses a navy base.
“[Gunfire] has been going on for at least a week now,” says Carmen Ribeiro. “My apartment faces the rock and the gunfire occurs on top, where Babilonia is. On days like these I push my bed away from the window and retrieve to the kitchen when I hear gunshots.”
The intense gun battle, on Friday, led to the closing of the Sugarloaf Mountain cable cars service for the first time in history on Friday afternoon. At least 100 tourists were trapped on the mountain and only released five hours after the confrontation started.
Santos Dumont Airport also halted all incoming and outgoing airplanes between 3:15 PM and 3:30 PM, due to its proximity to the Urca neighborhood.