Reuters International

A general view of Alemao slum in Rio de Janeiro November 28, 2010. Police and troops occupied the Rio de Janeiro slum on Sunday and were conducting a house-to-house search for drug traffickers behind a crime wave in the beachside city last week that killed at least 46. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Heavily armed Brazilian police battled drug traffickers in a Rio de Janeiro slum on Wednesday, just two days before the start of the Olympic Games in a reminder of the security struggles of the host city.

A gun battle erupted between traffickers and police after they deployed some 450 officers to the Alemao favela in the north of the city to carry out dozens of arrests warrants, a spokesman said.

The sprawling slum of some 70,000 people lies next to the Galeao international airport, which is expected to receive some 500,000 passengers during the Games.

Local television showed images of scores of police in dark camouflaged fatigues firing automatic rifles and helicopters flying over the hillside favela overlooking the city.

"The gun fight is raging here and there are a lot of people who are afraid to leave the house or take their children to school," said one woman who lives in the slum, who asked not to be identified.

A police chief leading the operation was shot in the shoulder amid the gun fight, local media reported.

The battled raged on Wednesday as the Olympics torch reached Rio, a scenic, beach-side city that has long struggled with violent drug crime in the hillside slums that surround it.

Concerned with the rash of attacks in Europe, Brazil beefed up security in Rio ahead of the Games, which have been marred by political turmoil, economic crisis and the spread of the Zika virus in the host nation.

Rio expects half a million visitors for the Olympics that will be hosted by a South American nation for the first time.

The federal government in July handed the state of Rio de Janeiro 3 billion reais ($920.02 million) in emergency funds to pay the wages of police as the cash-strapped local government struggles to honour its own payroll.

($1 = 3.2608 Brazilian reais)

(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga; Writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Meredith Mazzilli)

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