February 16, 2006

At least 6 killed in slum war in pre-Carnival Rio

By Bruno Domingos

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) - A gang turf war broke
out when 40 armed men invaded Rio de Janeiro's largest slum,
killing at least six people as the city prepares for a Rolling
Stones concert and Carnival, police said on Thursday.

Police squads raided the area, not far from Rio's beaches
and posh neighborhoods, after the clash erupted in Rocinha on
Wednesday night. They arrested seven people but raids and
shooting continued into the early hours on Thursday.

A leader of a local drug gang and several more people were
wounded. A 14-year-old was among the six dead.

Police could not say whether those killed were drug
traffickers or slum dwellers, who often die in the cross-fire.

The invading gang, armed with assault rifles, machine guns
and grenades, shot up power transformers in the slum, leaving
it without light. Many slum dwellers could not get back to
their homes after work due to the shootout.

The confrontation was the first big incident in Rocinha
this year but in 2005 and 2004 it suffered various flare-ups of
violence in which more than two dozen people died.

The hillside Rocinha, with a population of over 150,000
people, is reputed to be the largest slum in Latin America. It
lies close to the posh beachside areas such as Ipanema and
Leblon and the new rich district of Barra da Tijuca, which
makes it a lucrative drug-selling market.

Gangs rule in most of Rio's slums and warfare often spills
out in the streets, even closing main thoroughfares.

Hordes of tourists are arriving in Rio for Saturday's free
Rolling Stones gig and for the February 24 start of Carnival.
Police will occupy slums around Copacabana beach, where band
will play, and reinforce patrols across the city.