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article imageBrazil's top judge urges political killings probe

By AFP     Sep 29, 2016 in World

The head of Brazil's Supreme Court called Thursday for a rapid investigation into a spate of killings of candidates ahead of municipal elections.

Justice Gilmar Mendes said the killings, including the "shocking" shooting on Wednesday of a mayoral candidate in Itumbiara in central Goias state, were alarming.

"We're paying very close attention and also asking for investigations to be carried out as quickly as possible," he told journalists in Brasilia.

Brazilians vote Sunday in municipal elections expected to see a shift in power away from the long dominant leftist Workers' Party.

The death in Itumbiara of Jose Gomes da Rocha, shot at close range by a gunman during a campaign rally, followed killings of at least 15 candidates or politicians in the last 10 months in Rio de Janeiro state.

Federal military and police reinforcements have been deployed to boost security in 307 municipalities across 12 states, according to the official Agencia Brasil news service.

In most cases, the murders remain unsolved.

Fingers have been pointed after some of the killings at so-called militias -- shadowy groups made up of former or rogue police officers who run protection rackets in crime-plagued neighborhoods.

"We still lack an explanation," Mendes said. "In Rio de Janeiro there's already that difficult situation with the presence of militias (and) the issue of organized crime and narco-traffickers."

He called the incident in Goias, in which de Rocha's bodyguard was also killed and the state's deputy governor was wounded, "truly shocking and deplorable."

The motive of the shooter, who was quickly killed by security guards after his attack, "is not clear," Mendes said.

"But evidently it seems to be linked to a political context or act," he said.

In the Rio killings, the line between common crime and political motives appears to be blurred.

"That brings another concern which is that organized crime is taking part in the electoral process," Mendes said.

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