By Tom Phillips / The Guardian

At least 25 people have been killed after heavily armed police stormed one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas in pursuit of drug traffickers, in what was the deadliest raid in the city’s history.

About 200 members of Rio’s civil police launched their incursion into Jacarezinho in the early hours of Thursday, sprinting into the vast redbrick community as a bullet-proof helicopter circled overhead with snipers poised on each side. By lunchtime at least 25 people were reported dead, among them André Frias, a drug squad officer who was shot in the head. Police and local media described the other victims as “suspects” but offered no immediate evidence for that claim.

Santos Silva, a researcher from Rio’s Centre for Studies on Public Security and Citizenship, said his city’s war on drugs was effective when it came to killing but did nothing to protect citizens or reduce crime. “It’s repugnant,” he said of the photographs showing Jacarezinho’s streets littered with dead bodies.

“Irrespective of whether they were ‘traffickers’ or residents, these are lives, these are bodies – somebody’s child, somebody’s brother,” Santos Silva added. “There’s no way of looking at these photos and not wanting to cry over just how sick our society it.”