More troops flooded into a Rio de Janeiro slum Wednesday after fellow soldiers came under attack by drug traffickers.
About 100 marines deployed to help patrol the Alemao slum complex a day after soldiers were fired on by gang members in a neighboring slum that has not yet been taken over by police. More than 1,500 men and several armored vehicles from different police and military units were patrolling the area on Rio de Janeiro's north side.
Television images on Tuesday showed bullets streaking across the sky and desperate residents trying to find cover in the sprawling area where security forces drove out drug traffickers last year as part of a cleanup ahead of the 2016 Olympics.
Officials said there were no reports of anyone killed in the overnight shooting that spread panic in the region. They denied reports a 15-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet.
"This area was dominated by drug traffickers. If anyone says that they will be able to change that in the short term, then they are lying," Rio de Janeiro Public Safety Secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame said at a news conference. "We are guaranteeing freedom for these communities and handing back this territory to them and giving them a window of opportunity. Some incidents are still likely to occur, though."
Authorities announced police will occupy two nearby shantytowns from which they believe the drug gangs attacked the soldiers in Alemao.
Brazil promised to improve security in Rio as part of its bid to host the Olympics. The Alemao complex, for decades key territory for Rio's biggest drug gang, the Red Command, was seen as key for authorities because it hugs a highway leading to the international airport.
Rio is also expected to host the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup final at Maracana stadium.
"Criminal forces operating in the Alemao shantytown made it a fortress for years, where it operated as its own separate state," said Police Commander Mario Sergio. "Those people who controlled that state are not happy with the loss and will try to provoke some reaction whenever they can. What needs to be clear is that the pacification forces will always try to keep the peace in this area."
It was just last November that police invaded the Alemao in the midst of a week of widespread violence across the city, mayhem blamed on drug gangs.
The taking of the Alemao slum, once considered impenetrable, was the biggest victory yet for authorities in a policing program that uses elite units to push the gangs out of slums, then installs permanent bases and inserts community police to win over the citizens.