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Brazil Slums Riot Against Drug Arrests

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SAO PAULO — Slum dwellers rioted after the arrest of drug dealers in a Sao Paulo shantytown Wednesday, burning vehicles and tires, pelting police with rocks and briefly shutting down a major urban highway, local media said.

During a 90-minute rampage, rioters set fire to a van, a bus and a truck in the Tiqautira neighborhood after authorities arrested a group of young men suspected of being drug dealers, CBN radio said.

Angry residents also used piles of flaming tires to block a key highway at the height of the evening rush hour, but the road was later reopened.

Images from Bandeirantes TV showed heavily armed riot officers arriving at the scene and firefighters dousing charred vehicles and the tire barricades.

Globo TV's G1 Web site said rocks injured two police officers and a civilian who was fleeing from a bus.

Police said they could not confirm reports of arrests or give other details.

Raids in the slums of Rio de Janeiro frequently set off gunbattles between gangs and police, but violence that disrupts life is relatively rare in Sao Paulo, which is South America's largest city and the center of Brazil's industry and commerce.

The private Agencia Estado news service said Sao Paulo's infamous First Capital Command gang was suspected of being behind the violence.

The gang controls most of the drug trade in Sao Paulo's slums and showed its power in 2006 by waging a month of violence that left 200 people dead, including police, prison guards, suspected criminals, jail inmates and bystanders. Imprisoned gang members reportedly ordered the attacks in anger that they were being moved elsewhere. Human rights advocates allege that police seeking revenge for the attacks killed innocent victims.

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Associated Press writer Stan Lehman contributed to this report.

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