By Tom Degun

rio slum_takeover_19-10-12October 19 - Brazilian marines and paramilitary police have stormed one of Rio's most notorious and dangerous slums in a bid to clean up the area before the city hosts the FIFA 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It took just 20 minutes for the security forces to take over the Manguinhos favela in the predawn raid that involved 1,300 police assisted by helicopters hovering overhead and armoured tanks carrying 170 marines that ploughed through road obstacles set up in the narrow streets.

No shots were fired but three people were arrested during the takeover.

"The operation is another step toward peace, for reducing the number of homicides, car theft, and home break-ins," said Rio de Janeiro State Governor Sérgio Cabral.

"The practical effect of this is measured by a more peaceful life for citizens."

Authorities seized 60 kilograms (132 pounds) of cocaine in the raid and five alleged drug crime bosses that had fled to a nearby favela were killed earlier in the week.

Police have also increased their presence in Jacarezinho, a nearby favela and a major crack cocaine consumption centre, so that around 1,300 heavily armed police are based there.

The two favelas, home to some 70,000 people, are located six miles from downtown Rio and are strongholds of the powerful Comando Vermelho drug gang.

Rio de Janeiro's Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame hailed the latest raid as a "major victor for society, for the people, for public service".

Brazilian policemen_deploy_to_pacify_Jacarezinho_shantytown_known_as_Crackland_in_Rio_de_JaneiroBrazilian policemen deploy to pacify the Jacarezinho shantytown, known as "Crackland", in Rio de Janeiro

Around midday, the police raised the Brazilian flag in the Manguinhos town square and sang the national anthem, symbolically freeing the shantytown from the crime bosses.

"What follows now is a meticulous search for drugs, weapons and the arrest of criminals," added Rio military police spokesman Federico Caldas.

Paramilitary police will keep the peace until a unit with agents especially trained to handle favela affairs arrives later this year.

It is a boost to the city as it gears up to host the two biggest sporting events in the world with the FIFA 2014 World Cup now less than two years away and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games set to take place in just under four years.

The Estádio do Maracanã in Rio is set to host the World Cup final, while the Olympic Park is currently under construction for the 2016 Games.

Meanwhile, the city will also host matches during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, the warm-up event for the World Cup.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]