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Brazil forces drive drug gang from slums

RIO DE JANEIRO -- More than 3,000 police and soldiers backed by armored personnel carriers raced into Brazil's biggest slum before dawn yesterday, quickly gaining control of a shantytown ruled for decades by a heavily armed drug gang.

It was the most ambitious operation yet in an effort to increase security before Rio hosts the final matches of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

"We're taking back this territory for the 100,000 citizens of Rocinha, people who have needed peace," said Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro state.

The action is part of a campaign to drive the drug gangs out of the city's slums, where the traffickers often rule unchallenged. Rio de Janeiro, the city, has more than 1,000 shantytowns where one-third of its 6 million people live.

Police simultaneously overran the neighboring Vidigal slum, also previously dominated by the drug gang Friends of Friends. Both slums sit between two of Rio's richest neighborhoods, and Rocinha's ramshackle shacks climb a mountainside covered in Atlantic rain forest. Police methodically cleared alleys and streets on their way up steep, winding roads.

Huey helicopters hovered above, crisscrossing the hill and flying low over the jungle surrounding the slum, as police hunted down suspects who may have fled into the forest. By midday, just one arrest was reported. -- AP

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