Military armoured vehicles have been sent into a Rio de Janeiro slum as Brazil’s security forces seek to restore order after five days of violence which have seen at least 26 people killed.
Heavily armed gang members have attacked police stations, stopped cars and buses, robbed the passengers of money and valuables, before setting them alight.
The scenes of carnage that have spread across large sections of the city since Sunday threaten to seriously undermine Rio’s reputation as host for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Most of the dead were killed in gun battles with police that have also seen two officers wounded but one victim was reported to be a 14-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet.
The authorities in Rio believe the violence was ordered by imprisoned gang leaders in retaliation for attempts by police to reassert control over Rio’s shanty towns, or favelas, ahead of the major sporting events to be staged in the city.
“This is a desperate attempt to weaken our security efforts,” said Sergio Cabral, governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro.
“What they want is to create panic, for society to retreat but we will not retreat.”
Police holiday and all administration duties were cancelled as of Tuesday as the authorities flooded the streets with thousands of extra officers to target around 28 favelas.
Police said on Thursday that they were concentrating their efforts on the Vila Cruzeiro favela in northern Rio, where they say drug dealers fled after they were forced out of other slums.
Six M113 armoured vehicles from Brazil’s Marine Corps were deployed, supported by armed police.
At least 47 people have been arrested since the start of the violence, some of them caught holding bottles filled with gasoline, while weapons and drugs have also been confiscated.
Around a third of Rio’s six million people live in more than 1,000 slums, many of them located close to some of the wealthiest areas of the city such as Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana.
By Robin Yapp in Sao Paulo 8:49PM GMT 25 Nov 2010
Source: The Telegraph