Police ready for battle in gang-controlled Rio slum
Police are preparing another foray into the Vila Cruzeiro slum in a bid to oust the drug traffickers who control the area. The six-day assault has left 30 people dead and buses and cars have been torched in street fighting between police and drug traffickers.
Police claimed to have wrested control of the area from drug gangs but TV helicopters filmed scores of armed men fleeing up the surrounding hills into neighbouring districts.
It was not immediately clear if the police had definitively turfed the gangs out of Vila Cruzeira or if they had simply pushed them into other areas.
Fighting over the last few days has seen gangs torching 60 vehicles and firing at police with automatic weapons.
"We've taken an important step, but nothing's been won," state security chief Jose Beltrame told reporters, warning that operations would continue.
Brazil’s defence ministry meanwhile approved the deployment of another 800 troops,10 armoured vehicles and two Air Force helicopters to support the operations, an indication that the fighting was far from over. Since Sunday the authorities have arrested more than 150 people in several slums.
It is thought Brazil is trying to clean up the seaside city ahead of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics scheduled for 2016.
Businesses were closed down in the Vila Cruzeiro slum and students sent home for the duration of the operation.
Although the authorities claim most of the dead are drug traffickers, a teenage girl has been hit by a stray bullet.