Fri, Jul 14, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Sao Paulo hit by fresh wave of attacks

MEAN STREETS At least six people have died in a series of incidents across the Brazilian city only two months after nearly 200 were killed in a weeklong spate of violence there


A wave of 71 attacks on police and civilians left at least six people dead in Sao Paulo on Wednesday and authorities said they thought the strikes were ordered by one of Brazil's most notorious organized crime groups.

Sao Paulo's state police commander, Colonel Elizeu Eclair Teixeira Borges, said in a news conference that "53 police and civilian targets were hit in 48 separate attacks against police stations, banks, supermarkets and car dealerships" between 10pm on Tuesday and 7am on Wednesday.

Some 23 similar attacks took place later in the day, but no additional deaths were reported, authorities said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva offered to send in federal troops, saying "the situation is grave because we are not dealing with common criminals, it's a crime industry."

Sao Paulo State Governor Claudio Lembo said in a statement that federal help was not yet necessary.

Authorities said six people were killed in the pre-dawn attacks, including a 29-year-old police officer who was gunned down after opening the front door of his house to strangers. His sister was also shot dead as she looked out the window after hearing the shots.

Two private security guards were killed in the beach resort town of Guaruja and one was killed in the neighboring city of Sao Vicente, Borges said.

A 53-year-old prison agent attacked in Campinas, 100km north of Sao Paulo, died of his wounds later on Wednesday, authorities said.

At least 30 buses were attacked, most of them torched after assailants ordered the passengers off, authorities said.

Five people were arrested at dawn on Wednesday, including Emivaldo Silva Santos, believed to be a leader of the First Capital Command -- known by its Portuguese initials PCC -- in Diadema, an industrial suburb on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

Another man was later taken into custody and accused of helping torch some of the buses.

The press office of the Sao Paulo State government said that automatic rifles, pistols and firebombs were used in the attacks.

The violence came two months after imprisoned leaders of the PCC allegedly ordered attacks against police across the city and Sao Paulo state, touching off a weeklong wave of violence that killed nearly 200 police, prison guards, suspected criminals and jail inmates.

Although Borges did not specifically mention the PCC he hinted the gang had ordered Wednesday's attacks, saying they were the work of "criminal organizations" -- a phrase authorities often used to refer to the group.

Public Safety Secretary Saulo de Castro Abreu also made it clear he thought the PCC was involved. The attacks were sparked by reports of an imminent transfer of gang leaders from Sao Paulo prisons to Brazil's first federal penitentiary in the southern state of Parana, he said.

The PCC is believed to be behind the recent murders of five off-duty prison guards in a rash of killings that began on June 28, two days after police killed 13 suspected gang members who planned to attack guards, police said.

Police said the gang members planned to shoot as many as 60 guards from four lockups over a 10-day period as they headed to and from work.

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