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Brazil promises safe Olympics despite gang wars

Authorities say the deadly violence in Rio de Janeiro a day earlier has only toughened their resolve to improve security ahead of the 2016 Games.

October 19, 2009|Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO — At least 2,000 Brazilian police officers patrolled this coastal city Sunday as officials pledged to hold a violence-free 2016 Olympics despite bloody drug gang shootouts that left 14 people dead.

An hours-long gun battle Saturday between rival gangs in one of the city's slums killed at least 12 people and injured six. A police helicopter was shot down and eight buses set on fire during the incident.

Police said Sunday that they had killed two suspected drug traffickers in overnight clashes near the Morro dos Macacos ("Monkey Hill") slum where the gangs fought for territory. But the area was largely peaceful.

Two officers died and four were injured Saturday when bullets from the gang battle ripped into their helicopter hovering overhead, forcing it into a fiery crash landing on a soccer field. Officials said they did not know whether the gangs targeted the helicopter or it was hit by stray bullets.

Gunfire on the ground killed 10 suspected gunmen and wounded two bystanders.

Authorities said the violence had only toughened their resolve to improve security ahead of the Olympics and before 2014, when Brazil will host the World Cup soccer tournament with key games in Rio, the second-biggest city.

Rio state Public Safety Director Jose Beltrame told reporters that the violence was limited to a specific area of the city of 6 million and "is not a problem throughout all of Rio de Janeiro."

He said authorities would follow through with promised efforts to reduce crime.

"We proved to the Olympic Committee that we have plans and proposals for Rio de Janeiro," he said. "We proved that our current policy not only consists of going into battle, it also consists of keeping the peace."

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