Brazilian police claim victory against criminal stronghold

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RIO DE JANEIRO: After days of preparation, Brazilian security forces on Sunday invaded and seized a slum where between 500 and 600 drug traffickers had been holed up and refused to surrender.
The success of the operation, launched earlier in the day, was announced by military police commander Mario Sergio Duarte. “We took control of all the points we needed to control,” he said. “Our battalions have reached them all.”
Duarte said the raid was supported by aircraft and was concluded without difficulty. Police forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, moved into Favela da Grota amid a heavy exchange of fire at about 8:00 am (1000 GMT), according to an AFP reporter.
About 2,600 airborne troops, marines and members of elite police units took part in the operation targeting a lawless group of slums dubbed Complexo de Alemao.
“This is our D-Day,” military police spokesman Colonel Lima Castro earlier told reporter in a reference of to the historic allied invasion of Normandy during World War II. “We will return this community to the people of Rio de Janeiro.” On Saturday, traffickers and police fought a pitched gun battle for around 30 minutes, with Duarte telling reporters that authorities had the criminals “outgunned”. Trouble with organized crime is nothing new in Rio.
But there is a new sense of urgency in a Brazil that has emerged as a global economic and political player, and soon will host the world at home.
Authorities are seeking to impose order on the notoriously violent slums before Brazil hosts what are two of the planet’s largest sporting events: the World Cup in 2014 the Olympic Games two years later.
The slums, known here as favelas, are home to more than two million people. Defense Minister Nelson Jobim authorized the deployment of 10 military armored vehicles, two Air Force helicopters and 800 soldiers, to reinforce the 17,500 police already engaged in the crackdown.