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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 02:14 GMT
Brazil army ends Rio occupation
By Tom Gibb
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Army troops at the Vila dos Pinheiros slum
The cache of weapons was stolen two weeks ago
The Brazilian army has ended a nine-day occupation of slums in Rio de Janeiro aimed at recovering weapons stolen from an army base.

The occupation was carried out by 1,500 troops with support from helicopters and tanks but failed to recover any of the weapons.

The army says it will continue to mount further operations to find the weapons.

The occupation led to daily shootouts with armed drug gangs which left several people injured.

The troops withdrew from the slums they had occupied, in some places to the explosion of fireworks set off by members of drugs gangs.

Over the last nine days there have been frequent exchanges of automatic weapons fire between the two with at least four people injured.

Despite the massive operations the soldiers did not find the 10 assault rifles stolen from a military base that they were looking for.

Critical report

The army says it will continue to mount more targeted raids and search in co-ordination with the police until the weapons are recovered.

File picture of Rio police
This is not the first time Rio's police has come in for criticism
Human rights groups fear that this will be used as a pretext to allow military operations in Rio slums for the indefinite future.

Amnesty International and other groups have released a highly critical report about the military style tactics used by Rio's police.

In particular, the report criticises the use of special armoured vehicles which, it says, killed 11 people in just five months last year.

The vehicles are painted black and have a picture of a skull impaled on a sword.

Amnesty says they go into slums shooting at random and using loudspeakers to intimidate the population.

Human rights groups want the police to switch tactics towards community policing to try to reduce the high levels of violence in the deeply divided city.

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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