Sat, Jan 14, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Officials suspect gangs behind attacks on police

AP , SAO PAULO

Police in South America's biggest city are investigating whether some of the attacks on police targets that have left five officers dead in the last two days were orchestrated by one of Brazil's most notorious gangs, a state police commander said on Thursday.

"An organized crime group may have launched these attacks in an effort to intimidate or discredit [police] in retaliation for some of the setbacks we have dealt it," Sao Paulo state police commander Colonel Elizeu Eclair Teixeira said by telephone.

Teixeira said four of the officers slain appeared to have been victims of armed holdups or of "vengeful husbands or lovers," but police were investigating whether gangs were responsible for a fifth killing on Thursday as well as two attacks on police stations.

"There was no apparent motive for killing that police officer, who was shot dead while on a routine patrol by gunmen in three cars," Teixeira said. "It was the kind of killing one usually attributes to organized gangs."

On Thursday, two men on a motorcycle emptied their pistols as they rode past a station in the affluent Morumbi neighborhood, according to the Sao Paulo state Public Safety Department.

The day before, heavily armed assailants in two cars shot up a station in the working-class district of Braz Leme. No one was hurt in either attack.

"They have embarked on a suicide mission because we will be implacable in hunting them down," Teixeira said, referring to the notorious First Capital Command gang known by its Portuguese acronym, PCC.

Teixeira refused to mention the group by name, however, saying "that would give it the undeserved glamor it craves."

He speculated the attacks could be retaliation for operations in the last week in which police thwarted an attempt to spring several PCC leaders from a maximum security penitentiary.

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