Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil drug lord accused of deadly jail riot seized

Police picture of Stephan de Souza Vieira, aka BH, a drug dealer that escaped from Aparecida de Goiania Prison Complex in November 2017, sitting on a bed after his re-arrest in Cabo Frio municipality, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil, on 7 January, 2018. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Vieira is believed to be the Red Command leader in the state of Goias

Police in Brazil have arrested a drug lord accused of ordering a deadly prison riot on New Year's Day.

Nine inmates were killed and 14 injured during the unrest at a prison in the central state of Goias.

Stephan de Souza Vieira, 34, was seized at a luxury flat in the state of Rio de Janeiro. He had been on the run from the jail since November.

He is a leader of the Red Command criminal gang with drug interests across Brazil, police say.

Vieira, also known as BH, had been serving a 26-year sentence for drug trafficking when he escaped from the Aparecida de Goiania jail.

Police say that he controlled gang inmates from outside the prison and gave orders for armed members to start the riot.

They attacked a rival gang in a separate wing of the prison and set mattresses on fire.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Several prisoners were re-arrested a few hours after the riot

More than 100 inmates escaped during the riot. Dozens remain at large.

Vieira was arrested in a flat in the seaside resort of Cabo Frio.

He was found with a substantial amount of cash, jewellery, several mobile phones and notebooks with details of drug trafficking transactions.

Brazil prison riots: What's the cause?

Riots are common in Brazilian prisons, which are notoriously overcrowded.

Brazil has one of the largest prison populations in the world. The country's jails are largely controlled by powerful criminal factions with access to drugs, mobile phones and weapons.

A report by judicial authorities in 2016 described security at the rural penitentiary on the outskirts of the state capital, Goiania, as bad.

According to the report, the prison - part of a larger complex - was built to house 122 inmates, but at one point it held 423.

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