Powerful Brazil gang leader killed: media

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - A leader in one of Brazil's most powerful criminal gangs implicated in cocaine trafficking has been murdered along with another gang member, local media reported on Sunday.

Rogerio Jeremias de Simone, a chief in the First Capital Command crime group, was found dead in the northeastern state of Ceara, the reports said.

State authorities confirmed to AFP the discovery on Friday of two unidentified corpses at an indigenous reserve.

Citing a Sao Paulo prosecutor, news website UOL said they are the bodies of de Simone, also known as Gege do Mangue, and one of his henchmen, Fabiano Alves de Souza.

The G1 news site said they were shot in the head and stabbed in the eye during what police think could have been an ambush by a rival faction, or an internal settling of accounts.

De Simone's gang has branches in several Brazilian states to control cocaine trafficking routes from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the world's three biggest producers.

Brazil is an important trafficking route to Europe.

De Simone, 41, was freed in February last year after serving a decade behind bars. He was supposed to return to court charged with two murders but never appeared.

In 2006, First Capital Command terrorized its home base of Sao Paulo for several days after authorities decided to transfer gang leaders to high-security prisons. In the unrest, numerous police officers were killed, buses burned and shops looted.

Brazil is one of the most violent countries in the world, with nearly 60,000 homicides annually.

Much of that unrest is the result of battles over drug turf, with conflicts taking place in the streets and also behind bars where drug kingpins hold sway.

The country's penitentiaries often see confrontations between First Capital Command and the country's other main gang, Red Command from Rio de Janeiro, as well as their offshoots.

In one of the most bloody episodes, 56 were killed in an uprising at a prison in the Amazon city of Manaus early last year.