Armed men use roadblocks to rob Rio drivers

Armed men used roadblocks to trap and rob drivers over the weekend, killing a man and alarming public officials who are preparing to receive hoards of summer tourists, local news media reported Monday.

The gunmen set up their traps on Sunday and Monday morning, mostly on the outskirts of the city, military police said, according to several newspapers and a report on Globo TV's G1 website. Officials were not able to immediately confirm the reports for The Associated Press.

In addition to erecting the roadblocks, the robbers set some cars on fire to prevent drivers from fleeing and police from reaching the scene.

One man who refused to stop his car was shot and killed Saturday, G1 reported, citing highway police. The victim lost control of his car and ran into other drivers, injuring them. His wife and child, who were also in the car, escaped unharmed, the reports said.

Rio de Janeiro's governor, Sergio Cabral, told reporters Monday that the city's public safety officials were planning an organized response to the attacks.

He said that the recent surge of violence may have been in response to efforts to defeat crime gangs by establishing a permanent police presence in the city's numerous crime-ridden shantytowns. The city is trying to clean up its image in advance of hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

This is not the first time that criminals have trapped drivers to rob them. In other attacks, they have shut off narrow streets or blocked tunnels.

A string of 10 such robberies in early October led to the firing of 19 police battalion leaders.