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Brazilian troops, drug traffickers engaged in standoff in Rio slum

By Juliana Barbassa
Associated Press / November 27, 2010

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian military forces took fire from drug-gang members holed up in a massive slum complex yesterday but stood their ground, trapping the traffickers inside.

About 800 troops are supporting a massive police operation at the Alemao complex of shantytowns, an operation that came just a day after police took over a separate slum.

Authorities are not publicizing their plans, but it appears an invasion of Alemao, Rio’s most dangerous slum, is imminent.

“This is not the moment to circumvent risks, but rather to confront risks,’’ said Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, who traveled to Rio to meet with the state’s governor and top security officials.

Military spokesman Enio Zanan said that soldiers have been taking fire from drug-gang members hiding in the large complex but did not return it out of fear of hitting civilians.

“These men are prepared, and won’t return fire at random,’’ he said. “There are innocent people in the community where these guys are hiding.’’

Zanan said the standoff has no set time or date to end and the troops are ready to stand guard around the clock as long as needed.

Among those wounded yesterday was the chief Brazil photographer for the Reuters news agency, Paulo Whitaker. Reuters said he suffered a non-life-threatening bullet wound in the shoulder.

The source of the shot was not immediately clear.

Brazil is trying to clean up the seaside city before the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Over the past two years, authorities have established permanent police posts in 13 slums as part of an effort to bring basic services to the communities and rid them of violence related to drug trafficking.

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