Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Santa's chopper shot up over slum"

from yahoo.com

Not even Santa Claus is safe as the violent Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro celebrates the Christmas season.

Drug traffickers in a Rio slum opened fire on a helicopter carrying a Santa to a children's party, apparently mistaking it for a police helicopter, police said Tuesday.

"They thought it was a police operation and started shooting. Luckily, nobody was hurt," a police official said.

The helicopter had to return to its base after the attack. Two bullet holes were found in its fuselage.

Police said the pilot, contracted to take an actor dressed as Santa to the party in the Nova Mare slum, was flying over the neighboring Vila Joao shantytown when it was fired upon on Sunday.

Santa later returned to Nova Mare by car to distribute Christmas presents.

Most of Rio's 700-plus slums are controlled by drug traffickers and are not regularly patrolled by police, who instead go into the slums in military-style raids, often using helicopters and armored vehicles.

(Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Bill Trott)

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