November 24, 2010 / 2:09 PM / 9 years ago

Rio gangs defy police in fourth day of attacks

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Suspected gang members in Rio continued burning cars and buses on Wednesday in a fourth day of violence that defied a stepped-up police presence and raids on slum communities.

The wave of violence has raised further doubts about the city’s ability to safely host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games and marred the image of a city known for its beaches and easy-going tropical lifestyle.

Assailants set fire to a total of 15 cars and buses after forcing their occupants out on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Gunmen opened fire on at least one police station, following a similar attack earlier this week.

The violence began on Sunday with attacks on police stations and burning of vehicles, actions Rio’s top security official said were ordered by imprisoned gang members.

Authorities say the attacks are a protest by traffickers angry at being forced from their turf by police occupations of more than a dozen slums in the past two years.

Police continue to conduct raids on suspected drug traffickers in slums.

Two people were reported killed on Tuesday during raids, while two others were killed when their car was fired on in an incident that appeared to be unrelated to the broader wave of violence.

Hundreds of poor communities in the city of 6 million are still so violent that police and state authorities cannot enter.

Gang violence has spilled over several times since Rio was awarded the Olympic Games in October 2009. Gang members shot down a police helicopter weeks later, sparking police raids and violence that resulted in 30 deaths.

In August, gunmen from a slum armed with automatic weapons and grenades invaded a five-star hotel in one of Rio’s richest neighborhoods and held 35 people hostage for two hours.

Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; writing by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Stacey Joyce

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