Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shootout, helicopter crash kill 14 in Rio

Associated Press

October 18, 2009

Rio De Janeiro

Drug traffickers shot down a police helicopter during a gun battle between rival gangs Saturday, killing two officers in a burst of violence just two weeks after the city was chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Ten suspected drug traffickers were also killed during the fighting in a shantytown, along with two bystanders, officials said.

Bullets flying from the Morro dos Macacos, or Monkey Hill, slum in north Rio de Janeiro hit the pilot of the police helicopter in the leg as he hovered above the shootout, causing the craft to go down.

Two officers died in the crash. The pilot and three other police officers escaped after the craft hit and burst into flames. The pilot and a second officer suffered bullet wounds and all four were burned, one gravely, said Mario Sergio Duarte, head of Rio state's military police.

Officials did not know whether the gangs targeted the helicopter or whether it was hit by stray bullets, but the event underscored security concerns that have dogged Brazil's second-largest city for decades.

It was not clear what sort of weapon hit the helicopter, but Duarte said it was unlikely to have been an antiaircraft missile. Such weapons have been found in the hide-outs of drug traffickers along with other heavy military-grade arms, such as grenade launchers and .50-caliber machine guns.

Duarte said the pilot was able to make a somewhat controlled though extremely rough landing, which he said would have been unlikely if the aircraft had been hit by a heavy weapon.

Police said 10 presumed traffickers were killed during the fighting in the slum, including three suspects found dead in a vehicle.

Officials gave no details on the other seven.

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