14 killed as police raid Rio ganglands

Police raided shanty towns in Rio de Janeiro yesterday, setting off clashes that killed 14 people as authorities try to halt a wave of violent crime that has rattled rich and poor alike in a city that Brazil hopes to make a showpiece for the 2016 Olympics.

Police invaded the gang-ruled Vila Cruzeiro community and surrounding slums early in the day, engaging in intense gunfights. Twenty-five people were detained. "We didn't start this war," said Henrique de Lima Castro Saraiva, a police spokesman. "We were provoked. But we will emerge victorious."

Over the past three days, 21 people had been killed and about 150 arrested during sweeps by 17,500 officers, Mr Saraiva said. Two officers suffered minor wounds in Wednesday's fighting.

A wave of recent violence has shaken Rio. Authorities say gangs are responding to a law-enforcement drive to regain control of territory over the past two years. The police force has taken on an additional 1,200 officers to fend off attacks. "We are stepping up our efforts," Mr Saraiva said. "We will be even more trenchant tomorrow."

Robber gangs have erected road blocks where they have stopped cars and buses and set 29 vehicles on fire since the clashes began. Police said they had not yet identified all the dead and Mr Saraiva admitted: "Bystanders may be affected."