Monday, February 16, 2004

Three policemen killed, ten wounded in ambush in Rio de Janeiro

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) --Three policemen were killed and 10 wounded in
Rio de Janeiro when gunmen ambushed the bus in which they were traveling in a new
outburst of violence days before the annual Carnival, police said Monday.

The policemen were returning from a security shift at the Maracana stadium
Sunday evening after an important soccer game between rival Rio teams Vasco
and Flamengo.

The bus was passing by a shanty town along the busy Avenida Brasil
thoroughfare on the city outskirts when it ran into a hail of bullets from assault
rifles and a machine gun.

The bus was completely destroyed. Police said they were investigating the
attack and did not comment further. Drug gangs control many of Rio's slums.

Last year, the federal government deployed army units to safeguard Carnival
jamborees in the tourist mecca of Rio following a wave of gang-related violence
that included attacks on police posts, city buses and even tourism spots.

Rio authorities have since toughened their fight against organized crime and
such incidents have become more rare recently. They say the attacks are
normally retaliation by drug gangs for tough police action against them.

The oceanside city, where murder rates are among the highest in the world, is
swarming with tourists for five days of Carnival parades and all-night reveling.
The pre-Lenten festival officially kicks off Friday, but loud samba processions
have already taken to the streets.

Copyright 2004 Reuters.