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Bystander killed in hotel shoot-out

Gunmen have been involved in a shoot-out with police took 30 people hostage at a luxury Brazilian hotel popular with foreign tourists, but within hours freed the captives and surrendered.

The upscale neighbourhood where the Intercontinental Hotel is located was transformed into a virtual war zone as the 10 suspects - armed with high-calibre rifles, grenades and pistols - exchanged fire with police in a shoot-out that killed a bystander as she was getting out of a taxi.

Dozens of other suspects fled into a nearby slum where the shoo-tout began. Spent casings from high-calibre weapons littered the pavement in front of the hotel and residents of the neighbourhood said they were awakened by the shooting.

Amateur video aired on Globo showed a group of black-clad police taking heavy fire and returning it as they took cover behind a rubbish truck. Sanitation workers in bright orange jumpsuits huddled behind the truck, waiting for the onslaught to end. Globo also broadcast images of the shooting victim's body, which lay on the street partially covered by black plastic sheeting.

The police spokeswoman said that the gunmen were holding the hostages in the hotel's kitchen "but we negotiated with them".

"All of the hostages are freed and 10 suspects are in custody," she said, adding that police were still searching the hotel to make sure no other gunmen remained inside.

Other images showed an elite unit of Brazil's military police entering the hotel and evacuating approximately 400 guests, many of whom were staying there for a dentists' convention.

Security in Rio de Janeiro is of great concern as the city prepares to host the final of the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Officials have vowed to fight violence, and in the past year started an aggressive programme of invading slums where heavily armed drug gangs hold sway, driving them out and creating police posts in those poor communities. The programme has managed to clear drug gangs from about 10 slums located in Rio's rich southern zone.

The Intercontinental is a favourite among foreign tourists, but the nationalities of those taken hostage was not immediately known.


From Belfast Telegraph