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Brazilian army and police launch crackdown on slum gangs

Mauro Pimentel, AFP | Militarized police officers carrying assault rifles patrol a street of the Mangueira shanty town during a search and capture operation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 17, 2017.

Heavily armed Brazilian army troops and police launched a pre-dawn crackdown Saturday on gangs operating out of slums across Rio de Janeiro, following a steep rise in crime.


Five favelas were targeted by the combined forces in a swoop that started in the early hours, the Rio state security service said in a statement. Their main goal was to stop gangs behind a surge in brazen robberies of commercial trucks.

Brazil's Globo television showed footage of soldiers in camouflage searching residents in the favelas and driving down streets in armored personnel carriers.

Officials said the favelas were Lins, Camarista Meier, Morros de Sao Joao and Engenho Novo in the north and Covanca in the west.

"The armed forces are responsible for the perimeters in some of these regions and based at strategic points," the state security service said. "Some roads are blocked and the airspace is restricted to civilian flights over the sectors where the armed forces are operating."

Rio's airports, however, were not affected.

The big crackdown on Rio's heavily armed criminal gangs came exactly a year after President Michel Temer opened the Olympics.

Rio was the first South American city to host the Games and although the event passed off smoothly, a mixture of corruption scandals, near collapse in the budget and crime has combined into a serious hangover for what should be one of Brazil's richest regions.

The crackdown follows the Brazilian government's deployment last month of a thousand additional personnel to combat insecurity in Rio.

In the first half of this year the city tallied 3,457 homicides, the highest level of violence since 2009 and 15 percent more than during the same period in 2016.

Many people are killed in gun fire between rival gangs competing for control of the favelas.

Heavily armed Rio police also battle with the gangs, with shootouts between the two sides often leading to injuries and deaths among bystanders.

Since the beginning of the year 93 police officers have also been killed in Rio.

The state of Rio recorded some 10,000 cases of cargo theft last year, primarily on access roads to the city of 6.5 million resident, causing heavy financial losses.


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