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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 01:07 GMT
Nine killed in Rio slum shoot-out
By Steve Kingstone
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Sergio Cabral, inspects National Security Force
Sergio Cabral says serving police officers must be loyal to the force
Nine people have been shot dead in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, in a continuing struggle for control of the city's "favelas" or shantytowns.

In recent months some favelas have been taken over by militias - consisting of retired and off-duty police officers.

They offer to rid communities of drug gangs in return for protection money.

The new state governor, Sergio Cabral, says he won't tolerate the involvement of serving police officers in parallel security forces.

Rio de Janeiro is well accustomed to gun crime but now there is a new pattern to the violence.

At the invitation of local businesses and residents, armed vigilante groups are driving drug gangs out of the favelas.

Made up of off-duty and retired police officers, the "militia" - as they are known - then charge protection money in return for keeping the peace.

Slum battle

But on Sunday there were further signs that the drug traffickers are fighting back.

The police say five heavily armed men tried to retake control of a favela in the north of the city.

They exchanged fire with local militia, and were later shot dead by uniformed police.

In all, nine people died - including an off-duty police officer.

It is not clear whether he had links to the militia.

Such shoot-outs are becoming a regular feature of life in Rio as militia and traffickers battle for control of communities which are lucrative to both.

Local media estimate that close to 100 favelas have been taken over by vigilante groups.

Last week, a police commander was arrested and a senior official suspended on suspicion of profiting from militia activity.

This weekend's violence comes just days before the start of the Rio Carnival, a giant street party which draws thousands of visitors from around the world.

Residents are living in fear of the gangs

Top Brazilian policeman suspended
06 Feb 07 |  Americas
Rio hit by deadly gang violence
28 Dec 06 |  Americas
Eight killed in Rio slum gunfight
21 Mar 06 |  Americas
Brazil army ends Rio occupation
14 Mar 06 |  Americas
Amnesty condemns Brazilian police
02 Dec 05 |  Americas
Rio slums blighted by gun crime
21 Oct 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Brazil
18 Feb 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Brazil
05 Nov 05 |  Country profiles

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