Friday, September 5, 2008

Rio drug gang used alligators to terrify slum residents: police

A Rio de Janeiro drug gang used alligators to terrify residents of the slum they ran, and possibly even to make the bodies of murdered rivals "disappear," police said.

"We thought that the stories about traffickers having alligators was an urban legend, but now we have proof," police chief Ronaldo Oliveira told a media conference.

He was speaking after officers discovered and seized several of the carnivorous reptiles - including one 1.5 metres long - in a raid on the Coreia slum in northern Rio.

"It's likely there are other alligators in the slum because the ones we have are young," Mr Oliveira said.

Coreia residents told police the animals were used to terrorize victims of "quicknappings" - abductions during which the person grabbed is forced to withdraw money from cash machines.

It was also suspected that the animals were used to get rid of evidence of murders by eating the bodies of rival gang members.

However a biologist at Rio's Niteroi zoo, Saulo Toledo, told O Globo newspaper that, while the animals seized by the police could conceivably kill a young child or seriously hurt an adult, they would have difficulty eating human flesh.

"They would have to really hungry and used to that type of food," he said.


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