The casualty count comes after several days of heavy gunfire forced some capital residents fleeing their homes and snarled traffic in several neighborhoods.

Members of the Bolivarian National Police aim at possibe targets after clashes with alleged members of a criminal gang at the Cota 905 neighborhood in Caracas, July 9, 2021.
Members of the Bolivarian National Police aim at possibe targets after clashes with alleged members of a criminal gang at the Cota 905 neighborhood in Caracas, July 9, 2021. (AFP)

At least 26 people have died in nearly two days of clashes between Venezuelan security forces and gangs that control poor neighborhoods of Caracas.

The toll is 22 suspected gang members and four police officers dead, Interior Minister Carmen Melendez said.

She said an unspecified number of non-combatants died and 28 people were wounded, 18 of them bystanders.

The firefights broke out on Wednesday evening, forcing people to flee from their homes.

The clashes saw the use of high power rifles, tracer bullets, grenades and drones with which the gangsters got an aerial view of the security forces.

READ MORE: More Venezuelan soldiers killed in clashes with armed groups along border

'Military arsenal for war'

As many as 2,500 officers were deployed to take one barrio, or slum, called Cota 905. Authorities offered a rewards of $500,000 for the gang boss that runs it.

Police seized 24,000 rounds of ammunition, three rocket launchers, five rifles, four submachine guns and several handguns.

"We confiscated a military arsenal for war," said Melendez.

In June, similar clashes killed at least three people including a nurse who fell victim to a stray bullet.

Activists and the political opposition have for years accused President Nicolas Maduro's government of disregarding and covering up civilian casualties in anti-crime raids.

They have also criticized pacts the socialist government signed with some gangs to create no-go areas for police in certain neighborhoods in a bid to lower violence, arguing the so-called "peace zones" allowed gangs to consolidate power and resources.

"While civilians and police were murdered, western Caracas lived in fear for two days, and Venezuelans are fleeing the conflict, the dictatorship put on a show," opposition leader Juan Guaido said.

Venezuela is one of the most violent nations on Earth.

In 2020, the country registered 12,000 violent deaths, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory.

This is a rate of 45.6 per 100,000 inhabitants – seven times higher than the global average.

READ MORE: UN: Maduro security forces committed crimes against humanity in Venezuela

Source: TRTWorld and agencies