Brazilian city shuts schools and transport as drug gangs avenge leader’s killing

A city in Brazil ordered schools closed and suspended public transport after the police shooting of an alleged leader of a drug trafficking ring sparked retribution attacks from gangs, government officials said.

Dozens of buses, public buildings, banks and personal vehicles in Manaus – the capital and biggest city in the state of Amazonas – were targeted by a drug trafficking organisation in revenge for the killing, the state’s government said. Twenty-one vehicles were burned, and Governor Wilson Lima on Sunday requested deployment of the national guard.

The violence also hampered the vaccination campaign against the coronavirus. Officials in Manaus, where a more contagious variant of the virus emerged in 2020, closed its vaccine sites for fear of attacks. They expressed hope that shots could resume on Tuesday.

At noon, the bus service was gradually restored, but officials said it would halt again at nightfall.

Amazonas state’s security secretary, Louismar Bonates, said the attacks were ordered from prison in response to the death of alleged trafficker Erick Batista Costa, known as “Dadinho”. He was killed by police on Saturday night during an operation in the Redençao neighbourhood, west of Manaus, local authorities said.

In broad daylight on Sunday, assailants threw petrol bombs at bus stations and banks and also burned tyres, according to images shown on television. Fearing attacks, shopkeepers shut their stores.

Aboard speedboats, criminals shot at the entrance of a police station near the port of Manaus, the newspaper O Globo reported. It said one attacker disembarked and threw a grenade, but it didn’t detonate. There were no reports of injuries.

So far, 29 people suspected of carrying out the attacks have been arrested, the Amazonas state’s security secretariat said. Of them, 27 directly participated in the violence and the other two were involved in planning the attacks, the secretariat said.

A police officer guards the front of a police station that was damaged in Manaus, Brazil, on Monday.
A police officer guards the front of a police station that was damaged in Manaus, Brazil, on Monday. Photograph: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

Manaus residents interviewed by O Globo said they felt like hostages inside their homes, afraid to go out due to threats circulating on social media that were supposedly from the crime gang responsible for the attacks.

“We have greatly reinforced patrols,” Bonates, the security secretary, said. He added that police had set up checkpoints across Manaus and the state, saying: “People can come out of their homes and move about freely. The police are in the streets to guarantee safety.”

Attacks were centered in Manaus, but also happened in the municipalities of Parintins and Careiro Castanho.