Brazil says 17 killed in police action in Manaus

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Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

A shoot-out in the northern Brazilian city of Manaus between police and suspected drug traffickers left 17 people dead, local authorities announced Wednesday.

"The individuals exchanged fire with the police, 17 were hit by bullets and transported to hospital, where they were confirmed dead," the state security secretariat said of the clash late Tuesday.

The aim of the police operation had been "to intercept a group of drug traffickers from a criminal faction that was preparing to murder rivals to take control of drug selling positions" in the city.

Police seized 17 weapons, including an Uzi submachine gun, as well as a huge amount of ammunition.

Military police commander Ayrton Norte told reporters that authorities were tipped off that 50 armed people were in a truck heading to attack a rival gang.

Various groups are fighting for control of the drug trafficking business in the north of Brazil, a strategic area for the transport of cocaine from neighboring countries such as Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.

"We intervened to save lives, to apply the law and unfortunately they instigated a confrontation and were defeated," said Norte.

"Good always overcomes evil. Whomsoever dares to take on the police will face the appropriate response."

Local news website Portal do Holanda said a 14-year-old and 17-year-old were among those killed, although authorities have not confirmed that.

Gang rivalries frequently have flared into gruesome prison massacres in recent years.

At the end of July, 57 inmates were killed during a riot at a prison in Para state, which neighbors Amazonas, whose capital is Manaus.

In January 2017, more than 100 inmates were killed in a spate of prison clashes, the bloodiest of which was in Manaus.

Prison conditions in Brazil have been widely condemned due to chronic overcrowding, while riots and attempted breakouts are common.