Suspected paramilitary militia members set fire to 35 buses and a train drivers’ cabin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, paralyzing parts of the city on Monday. The incident occurred following a police operation that resulted in the killing of the nephew and right-hand-man of a militia boss known as “Zinho.” Rio state Governor Claudio Castro described the nephew, who goes by the alias “Faustao,” as a “known warlord” and stated that the police had dealt a significant blow to one of the largest militias in the western part of Rio.
In response to the operation, 12 people were arrested for suspected “terrorist actions,” and the city hall declared a level-three alert, warning residents and tourists of potential “high-impact incidents.” Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes criticized the militia members, referring to them as “idiots as well as criminals” in a social media post.
The public bus operators’ association, Rio Onibus, reported that 35 buses were set on fire, marking the highest number of buses burned in a single day in the city’s history. Among the damaged buses were five vehicles used for special rapid-transit lines introduced during the Rio Olympics in 2016. Additionally, the Supervia train operators’ organization confirmed that a train cab was set ablaze after the driver was forced out. As a result, public transport in the city experienced partial suspension.
Paramilitary militia groups control over half of Rio’s territory, instilling fear in impoverished neighborhoods housing more than two million people. These groups, often comprised of former police officers, initially formed as neighborhood watch organizations to protect residents from drug gangs. However, they have since evolved into organized crime entities, exerting control over various sectors, including internet service, cable TV, transportation, and construction.
This recent violence follows the targeted killing of three visiting doctors at a beachside bar in an upscale neighborhood three weeks ago. Investigators believe the doctors were mistakenly targeted by criminals who had confused one of them for a militia member.