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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) 

At least five civilians and one soldier died in shootouts in northern Rio de Janeiro on Monday, the army said, as thousands of Brazilian soldiers swept into slums in pursuit of drug gangs, trapping terrified residents in their homes

Separately, at least six suspected gangsters were killed on Monday near a bridge linking Rio and the neighbouring city of Niteroi, police said. Four people died in the shootout with police, while two more died in hospital.

 

Suspects arrested after violent clashes with Brazilian Army soldiers in Rio de Janeiro
Suspects are arrested after violent clashes with Brazilian Army soldiers after taking a family hostage in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

The army said the early-morning raids took place in several of the city’s most violent neighbourhoods, which are home to more than half a million people and have been targeted in a divisive six-month federal security operation.

Initially, the army had reported eight people were killed. It later lowered the death toll, and said two soldiers were injured, with one dying from his injuries.

 

Suspects arrested after violent clashes with Brazilian Army soldiers in Rio de Janeiro
Suspects are arrested after violent clashes with Brazilian Army soldiers after taking a family hostage in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

“The operations are ongoing and there could be more deaths,” the army said in an email to Reuters.

Many people shut themselves inside their homes for fear of being shot if they went outside, the Globo TV website reported.

 

 

The joint army and police operations, which the army said were intended to flush out drug dealers, involved 4,200 soldiers and 70 police, as well as armoured vehicles and aircraft.

The soldier who died on Monday was the first to be killed since the intervention began, the state security ministry said.

 

Pig is pictured as Brazilian Army soldiers patrol during an operation against drug gangs in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro
A pig is pictured as Brazilian Army soldiers patrol during an operation against drug gangs in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Just over six months ago, President Michel Temer announced emergency measures authorizing the army to take command of police forces in Rio de Janeiro state, where warring drug gangs and militias have triggered a sharp rise in violence.

Since the operation began, both murders and the number of people killed in police confrontations have risen, casting doubts on a strategy criticized for relying on military tactics, a lack of transparency and unclear goals.

 

Residents walk past by Brazilian Army soldiers who patrol during an operation against drug dealers in the Alemao complex slum in Rio de Janeiro
Residents walk past by Brazilian Army soldiers who patrol during an operation against drug dealers in the Alemao complex slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Nearly 64,000 people were murdered in Brazil in 2017, a record high, and the rise in violence has become a key issue ahead of presidential elections in October. Candidates across the political spectrum are trying to play up their crime-fighting credentials and appeal to an electorate fed up with a weak economy and endemic graft.

 

(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and James Dalgleish)

 

Drugs and guns seized from suspects arrested in Rio de Janeiro
Drugs and guns seized from suspects arrested after they took a family hostage during violent clashes with Brazilian Army soldiers in Alemao slums complex, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Brazilian Army soldiers patrol during an operation against drug gangs in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian Army soldiers patrol during an operation against drug gangs in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Brazilian Army soldiers take cover during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian Army soldiers take cover during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Brazilian Army soldiers take cover during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian Army soldiers take cover during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Brazilian Army soldiers patrol the Alemao complex slum during an operation against drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian Army soldiers patrol the Alemao complex slum during an operation against drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Brazilian Army soldiers patrol during an operation against drug gangs in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian Army soldiers patrol, near grazing horses, during an operation against drug gangs in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

A burned bus is seen near the Alemao complex slum during an operation against drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro
A burned bus is seen near the Alemao complex slum during an operation against drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Brazilian Army soldiers take cover during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian Army soldiers take cover during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Brazilian Army soldier fires his weapon during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro
A Brazilian Army soldier fires his weapon during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Brazilian Army soldiers take cover during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian Army soldiers take cover during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

Brazilian Army soldiers patrol during an operation against drug gangs in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian Army soldiers patrol during an operation against drug gangs in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

 

A soldier of the Brazilian Army patrols the Alemao complex slum during an operation against drug dealers in Rio de Janeir
A soldier of the Brazilian Army patrols the Alemao complex slum during an operation against drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
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