News24

Gangs and cops clash in Rio

2009-10-18 22:31

Rio de Janeiro - Brazilian authorities mobilized an extra 4 500 police officers on Sunday, hours after deadly clashes between drug traffickers and police left 12 people dead in the 2016 Olympics host city of Rio.

Jose Mariano Beltrame, the state of Rio de Janeiro's security chief, told reporters reinforcements were sent in from outlying areas in an effort to calm tensions in the city's sprawling impoverished hillside favelas.

Rio's win to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the first ever to be held in South America, is a serious challenge for the city, hit by endemic urban violence. Some 6 000 people were murdered here in 2008 alone.

Helicopter shot down

Saturday marked a bloody first as two police were killed when drug dealers shot down their helicopter in the Macacos slum near Maracana stadium.

Saturday's dramatic clashes erupted as gangs in the neighbouring "Morro do Sao Jao" favela tried to invade Morro dos Macacos and seize control there, officials said.

Civilian and military police were on alert on Sunday and those who were due to be off were called in, Beltrame said.

Justice Minister Tarso Genro offered Rio's authorities an elite army unit for emergency situations, but so far Rio state Governor Sergio Cabral has said no to that.

Major police operations regularly take place in the favelas, home to drug gangs and a third of the city's population of two million people.