Reuters International

A woman attends a protest against rape and violence against women in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

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By Brad Brooks

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro police swarmed two slums on Sunday searching for suspects in the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old Brazilian girl who said more than 30 men assaulted her, a case that shocked the nation set to host the Olympics in August. 

More than 70 officers used helicopters, armoured vehicles and dogs to enter the slums, but there was no word if any suspects had been captured in the operation.

In the five days since a video of the rape was posted by an alleged perpetrator on Twitter and set off a wave of outrage, police have brought in five people for questioning and made no arrests.

Police said there are indications the gang rape occurred on May 21, but they could not confirm how many took part.

Over the weekend, women and men marched in several cities to demand justice and decry sexism in Brazilian culture. A woman who sits on the Supreme Court lashed out at a pervasive macho culture that permits such barbaric acts.

"Each and every woman is a victim," Justice Carmen Lucia said in a written statement. "Our bodies are tormented, our souls are trashed. That is what these criminals think and do, and they must quickly be held accountable."

The case added to concerns about security in Rio and the political breakdown in Brazil as the city and country prepare for South America's first Olympics starting on Aug. 5.

Crime has fallen in recent years, but there has been an increase in homicides in recent months as Rio's police department had its budget slashed during an economic downturn.

The country's elected president, Dilma Rousseff, has been suspended on allegations she broke budget laws, and her impeachment trial in the Senate will likely play out as the Games are held. Brazil's worst economic crisis since the 1930s has compounded the political chaos. 

In addition, an outbreak of the Zika virus has prompted health warnings and led top global health experts to advise that the Games be postponed or moved.

The reported rape came to light in a video of the nude, semi-conscious youth, with a few men brazenly insulting the girl, showing their faces, and one man heard saying: "More than 30 impregnated her!" The Twitter account where the video was posted has been suspended.

Both Rousseff, the first woman to be elected president in Brazil, and interim President Michel Temer condemned the act.

'FEEL LIKE PIECE OF TRASH'

In an interview with Rio's O Globo newspaper, the alleged victim said she wanted to see justice done so that no other person would have to go through a brutal assault like the one she said she suffered.

"Today I feel like a piece of trash," she told the newspaper. "I hope that no other person ever feels this way." 

Late on Sunday, the police said in an emailed statement they removed the original lead investigator from the case.

That was in response to a formal request made by the alleged victim's lawyer, Eloisa Samy, to have investigator Alessandro Thiers taken off the case because she said he made the girl feel uncomfortable during questioning.

Samy told TV Globo in an interview that Thiers asked the girl if she had participated in group sex parties.

Samy was not immediately available to provide further details.

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

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