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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 18:01 GMT
Brazilian Santa escapes gunfire
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

A police helicopter flies over a shantytown in Rio de Janeiro (file photo)
Military-style police raids are common in Rio's shanty towns
Drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have opened fire on a helicopter carrying a Santa Claus to one of the city's shanty towns.

No one was hurt and it is thought the gunmen believed the helicopter belonged to the police.

The helicopter was taking an actor dressed as Santa Claus to a Christmas party in the favela of Nova Mare when it came under fire.

Two bullet holes were found in the fuselage when it returned to base.

The police said it was only a matter of luck that no one was hurt.

Presents delivered

The helicopter was flying over the shanty town of Vila do Joao when the attack happened and it is believed the drug traffickers mistook it for a police helicopter.

The Santa later returned to Nova Mare by car to deliver his presents, where more than 1,000 children and parents were still waiting for his arrival.

The actor told Brazil's TV Globo that he feared there was going to be a crash, but when he saw that the pilot remained calm and that the helicopter was flying normally, he stopped worrying.

The president of the local residents' association said the children were very sad as they had expected Santa to arrive by helicopter.

There are more than 700 favelas in Rio Janeiro, most of which are controlled by drug gangs.

Earlier this year, a police officer was shot and killed as he travelled in a helicopter over one of the city's shanty towns.

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