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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Brazil toll up as police hit back
Police in Sao Paulo
Police have set up roadblocks and ID checks in Sao Paulo
Brazilian police have shot and killed at least 22 suspected gang members amid continuing violence in Sao Paulo state.

The deaths, part of a police crackdown after gang-related violence, puts the number of people killed in five days of clashes to more than 140.

Some 40 police or prison guards died when the First Capital Command (PCC) gang attacked police in Sao Paulo city.

Human rights activists have voiced concerns that violent police reprisals might continue unchecked.

The latest killings came early on Wednesday as police continued operations against the gang.

Military police commander Elizeu Teixeira Borges told Brazilian TV the bodies of some 40 suspected gang members remained unidentified.

A total of 93 suspects have been killed since the uprising began, Reuters news agency reported him as saying, as well as 44 police or other officials.

Four civilians have also been killed since the clashes broke out on Friday.

Concerns

Police issued stark warnings to those who determined to fight on.

"The police is killing anyone who dares to clash with us," Mr Teixeira Borges said.

At first police were trying to stop the violence. Now we are entering into a phase of repression
Marco Desgualdo
State police chief

State police chief Marco Desgualdo left little doubt as to police tactics: "At first police were trying to stop the violence. Now we are entering into a phase of repression," AFP reported him as saying.

Amnesty International has appealed to Brazil to heed human rights standards while investigating the violence.

An Amnesty spokesman, Tim Cahill, told the BBC that circumstances were confused but the fear was that the Sao Paulo police could be carrying out retaliation and that innocent civilians might die.

Ariel de Castro Alves, co-ordinator of Brazil's National Human Rights Movement, added his concerns.

"The climate of terror can't be turned into carte blanche to kill," he said.

Gang power

The police reprisals came as Sao Paulo, Brazil's industrial capital, appeared to be recovering from the wave of violence that raged after Friday.

Roadblocks and ID checks were in place throughout the city.

The attacks were launched on Friday, apparently in retaliation for the transfer of 765 jailed PCC members to a maximum-security prison.

A burned out bus in Sao Paulo
Dozens of buses were torched during the violence
Over the weekend inmates of more than 70 prisons revolted, taking some 200 hostages, and suspected gangsters on the streets launched the mass attacks.

The PCC was formed in Sao Paulo by prisoners who survived one of Brazil's worst jail massacres in the early 1990s, when the police killed 111 inmates to put down a riot.

It is involved in drugs and arms trafficking, kidnappings, bank robberies, and prison breaks and rebellions, police say.

The gang's power has been heightened in recent years by the availability of mobile phones, smuggled through prison security, enabling members to run criminal activities from their cells.


SEE ALSO:
Police backlash lifts Brazil toll
16 May 06 |  Americas
Sao Paulo residents under siege
15 May 06 |  Americas
In pictures: Brazil violence
15 May 06 |  In Pictures
Brazil's mighty prison gangs
14 May 06 |  Americas
More die in fresh Brazil violence
14 May 06 |  Americas
Latin America: Crisis behind bars
16 Nov 05 |  Americas


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