At least eight killed in Rio slum drug raid

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 17 (Reuters) At least eight people, including a four-year-old and a police officer, were killed today in a clash between security forces and a drug gang in a Rio de Janeiro slum, authorities said.

The clash in Korea slum was the deadliest in the crime-ridden city in four months. Helicopters and armored cars provided support to 500 police taking part in the operation in the area.

Police said they were greeted by a hail of bullets when they entered the slum looking for weapons and drugs.

At least six of those killed were suspected of being involved with drug trafficking, while the child was hit by a stray bullet, they said. A police chief supervising the raid was wounded and had to be evacuated by helicopter.

''The Security Secretariat has free rein to act against drug traffickers,'' Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral told reporters as the raid was in progress.

Rio police are notorious for rough tactics against drug gangs that control many of the city's shantytowns and innocent bystanders often get killed by stray bullets.

The incident reflects the reality behind a new movie, ''Tropa de Elite'', which is topping the box office in Brazil and has caused controversy because of its portrayal of police torture and killings in the fight against traffickers.

In June, just before the start of the Pan American Games in Rio, police killed 19 people in the Alemao favela, or slum, in an incident that rights groups condemned as a massacre.

A period of relative calm had followed during the games, which were safeguarded by thousands of additional police, but there have been a few bloody clashes since. Three police officers have been killed this week alone.

Rio authorities hope that the city will be picked to host the Olympic Games and soccer World Cup and have been trying to project an image of safety after the success of the security plan for the Pan American Games.

REUTERS RSA RN2248

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