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23 dead since Sunday in Brazil slum violence

From the CNN Wire Staff
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Brazil's street violence spikes
  • NEW: 188 people have been arrested or detained, military police say
  • Some Rio de Janeiro schools are closed as police focus on the main drug-dealing area
  • The violence involving drug gangs started with a transfer of prisoners, an official says
  • Two rival drug gangs collaborated to launch the attacks, the official says

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (CNN) -- Violence including clashes between police and drug gangs in the slums of Rio de Janeiro has killed 23 people since Sunday, with 188 people arrested or detained so far, military police said Thursday.

It was not immediately clear whether all the dead were gang members or whether civilians and police were among the fatalities.

The continuing unrest stems from the transfer of prisoners from local institutions to federal lockups in other states, the government-run Agencia Brasil news outlet reported, citing Rio de Janeiro Public Security Secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame. Some of the prisoners being transferred ordered the violence by drug gangs, Beltrame said.

Also factoring into the situation was a police effort to remove some drug gang members from Rio's crime-ridden slums, called favelas.

According to the military police, two police officers have been hurt in the unrest, with 66 people arrested and 122 others detained. In addition, 37 vehicles have been torched: 27 cars, two vans, seven buses and a truck, the military police reported. Earlier, officials said the drug gangs also shot up a police station.

At least 47 public schools and 10 nurseries suspended classes Thursday, Agencia Brasil reported.

Beltrame said two rival gangs joined forces to launch the attacks. The security chief also said he mobilized all police in the city to try to restore order and to step up police presence in 17 of Rio's slums.

Agencia Brasil reported that the nation's Army was on high alert but had not been called in to bolster police efforts. The news agency also said Brazil's Marine Corps sent armored vehicles, weapons, ammunition and night-vision goggles for use by Rio de Janeiro security forces at the request of Rio de Janeiro State Gov. Sergio Cabral.

On Tuesday, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told CNN affiliate TV Record that he had instructed his justice minister "to attend to Rio de Janeiro with whatever he needs."

Officials are concerned about crime in Brazil as the nation prepares to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Rio.

Journalist Luciani Gomes contributed to this story.