Police Station Attacked, Cars Torched in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO – The headquarters of the Sao Paulo state police’s special operations unit was attacked, while at least 10 vehicles were torched in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, officials said Sunday.

Two gunmen opened fire from an automobile on the police special operations facility early Sunday, just hours after someone fired shots at the unit commander’s house.

Officers on duty at the station returned fire, killing one of the assailants when he got out of the vehicle to throw a fire bomb.

The other assailant managed to get away after attacking the police unit’s station in downtown Sao Paulo.

The police station was attacked less than 24 hours after gunmen opened fire on special operations unit commander Lt. Col. Paulo Telhada as he was getting out of his car in front of his house in the northern section of the city.

The two gunmen fired at least 10 shots at Telhada, who was not hurt in the attack.

“The investigations into the crimes that occurred this weekend are underway and all efforts are being made to find and punish those responsible to the full extent of the law,” the state police said.

The attacks are not part of a new offensive by organized crime groups against the police, Sao Paulo Gov. Alberto Goldman said.

“I don’t believe that’s the case, but, regardless of what I think, we are prepared to deal with any attempt to mount organized attacks,” Goldman said.

At least 10 vehicles, meanwhile, were set on fire in six different neighborhoods in Sao Paulo early Sunday, the fire department said.

The torching of the vehicles was in retaliation for the recent arrests of members of a criminal organization, police said.

The First Capital Command, or PCC, which controls drug and weapons trafficking in the slums of Sao Paulo and other cities, carried out a series of attacks in Brazil’s largest city in 2006.

PCC leaders reportedly run the criminal organization from the prisons of Sao Paulo state, and the gang has become one of Brazil’s largest crime groups.

The May 2006 attacks were launched in retaliation for the transfer of 765 PCC members, – including leader Marcos Willians Herbas Camacho, to a maximum-security prison in the neighboring state of Parana.

The PCC was blamed for the series of attacks on buses, banks and police stations that paralyzed Brazil’s biggest city in May 2006 for almost a week, killed 111 people and wounded 43 others.

Two months later, in July, 174 attacks were staged, leaving 11 people dead, and a wave of violence in August killed eight people.

Human rights groups said that after the PCC’s attacks on police stations in Sao Paulo four years ago, cops responded with a wave of vengeance killings in the poor neighborhoods on the city’s outskirts.

Over the years, Brazilian police repeatedly have been accused by domestic and international human rights organizations of grossly abusing their power, notably through summary executions of suspected criminals as part of “social cleansing” campaigns.

The PCC, also known as the “crime party,” first attracted attention in February 2001 when it launched coordinated uprisings in 29 Sao Paulo prisons that left 30 dead and went on for three days.

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