RIO DE JANEIRO — Elite police units in borrowed navy tanks rumbled through a heavily fortified slum Thursday in an effort to apprehend drug gang leaders they blame for five days of widespread violence, even as scores of armed youth fled to a neighboring shantytown.
Authorities say that gang members who hide out in numerous shantytowns have erected roadblocks on major highways to rob motorists en masse, torched more than 40 cars and buses, and shot up police outposts — all to protest against a security program that has been pushing them from slums where they've held sway for decades.
The officers arrived in the Vila Cruzeiro shantytown under the cover of police helicopters and amid the rattle of high-caliber gunfire despite the gang members' efforts to block access with burning vehicles.
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