Brazil's largest favela gripped by gunfire

By Ben Tavener, Saturday, May 03, 2014

Brazil's biggest shantytown, located in Rio, is under tight security after at least one person is killed in gun battles with criminals reportedly attempting to retake the territory

Brazil's biggest shantytown, located in Rio, is under tight security after at least one person is killed in gun battles with criminals reportedly attempting to retake the territory

SAO PAULO – Rio de Janeiro's Rocinha shantytown, the biggest single favela in Brazil, was on high alert Friday after a night of gun battles between police and criminals reportedly attempting to retake the territory. 

At least one person died and two others were injured after armed gangs launched the assault on police working at the favela's permanent police unit, installed as part of the city's so-called 'pacification' program. 

According to Globonews, 24-year-old Fernando dos Santos died in the shootout. His family admitted he worked for drug traffickers in the area as a lookout. 

One of the injured was a police officer, shot in the face, media entity Folha de S.Paulo reported. 

Police said weapons and drugs were seized in a follow-up operation.

Tactical police squads and riot troops were providing assistance to local military police on street patrols Friday morning.

Rocinha residents say shootouts have again become a common occurrence in the area, and are aimed at patrols from the permanent police unit of 700 officers installed in September 2012.

Since the start of pacification in Rio in 2008, over 9,000 police have been deployed to nearly 40 permanent police units, known as UPPs, encompassing over 170 slums across the city.

A number of UPPs have been the target of recent attacks by armed gangs, mainly in the north of the city in the Alemão and Maré favela complexes located in the vicinity of the main international airport. 

Rio mayor Eduardo Paes announced Friday that some 600,000 tourists were expected in the city for the World Cup, which starts in just over 40 days' time. Rio is hosting seven matches, including the final in the Maracanã stadium, which was the scene of mass protests during the Confederations Cup last July.

Rocinha is in the city's South Zone, located just 1.5km from the world-famous, upmarket Ipanema neighborhood and one of the city's biggest tourist hotspots. Despite population estimates by the last census of around 70,000, locals say the real figure is over 150,000 residents.

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