Brazilian Army joins Rio police in war against drug gangs

12:45, November 27, 2010      

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Police patrol in Complexo da Penha, north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nov. 26, 2010. Some 800 soldiers and police with tanks carried out the operation against heavily-armed gangsters to control the worsened situation. (Xinhua/Song Weiwei)

The Brazilian Army and Air Force will join Rio's police in the mega operations against drug gangs Friday.

The Army announced on late Thursday that 800 soldiers were sent to support the police forces, who managed to take over a major shantytown in an unprecedented operation, in which even Navy armored carriers were used. Thirty marines participated in the operation, along with over 400 police officers.

The Air Force offered two helicopters, 10 armored vehicles and several other equipments. The Federal Police will send 300 men. Another 300 marines, who were training to be sent to Haiti as part of the UN's peacekeeping force Minustah, are in standby to join the police if necessary.

The police operations are aimed at catching the groups responsible for a crime wave which started on Sunday. Since then, criminals have set fire on 96 vehicles, gunned down police cabins, and tried to spread the panic in Rio's metro area.

The attacks caused over 150 schools and universities to suspend classes. According to the local authorities' estimates, at least 47,000 students were left without classes. Non-urgent surgeries were postponed in the public hospitals, in order to make space to treat victims of the shootings.

The city's business is also suffering. According to Rio's trade federation, local retail is losing 39 million reais (22.5 million U.S. dollars) per day by keeping stores closed in the 15 neighborhoods in which police operations are taking place.

According to the police, the criminals are trying to recover the territory, income and power that were lost with the establishment of permanent police units in several shantytowns.

Since Sunday, 25 people died in the police operations, including a 14-year-old girl who was shot in the back while at home. A total of 192 people were arrested, several weapons and stolen vehicles were seized, and three policemen were injured.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva assured on late Thursday that the federal government will give its full support to the police squads who are battling drug gangs in Rio.

"Everything they need, everything we can do to let the people in Rio to live in peace, we will do," said the president, who is currently in Guyana for a regional meeting.

"It is unacceptable that 99 percent of the people, who work, who are good people, are molested by those who choose crime," he added.

Source: Xinhua


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