Hundreds of Brazilian soldiers and police officers have swooped on a crime-ridden slum this morning as part of an operation to rid Rio De Janeiro of gangs ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

A group of marines, backed by helicopters and armoured vehicles, were joined by around 800 armed police and other officers during the raid in the Mangueria neighbourhood, one of Rio de Janeiro's most populous neighborhoods.

The shantytown is a key part of the city as the Maracana stadium located nearby will host both the 2014 World Cup final and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games.

The operation is an attempt to drive from the area the drug traffickers that have held sway there for decades, Brazilian officials said.

© ReutersSwoop on the slums: Policemen prepare for the operation against drug dealers at Mangueira favela

© ReutersBulldozing their way in: Brazilian Navy soldiers in an armoured vehicle prepare to take over the heavily populated neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro

© ReutersForcing their way in: Policeman and Brazilian Navy soldiers met little resistance as they charged into the shantytown

This morning's raid, which was pre-announced, began with 14 vehicles entering the streets of the slum closely followed by groups of soldiers on foot.

The convoy made their way through the streets before finally reaching the summit of the hillside neighbourhood around 90 minutes after they first moved in.

Officers then raised the Brazilian flag to mark the successful completion of the operation.

Rio state public security director Jose Beltrame said in a televised news conference that officers had taken control of the slum without exchange of gunfire.

© The Associated PressSwoop: A group of armoured vehicles enters the Mangueira district of Rio de Janeiro to rid it of gangs ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics

© The Associated PressChilled out: A resident casually reads a newspaper as a group of four special police take part in the operation

© AFP/Getty ImagesBlue mist descends: A marine throws a series of smoke grenades as a tank makes progress through the shanty town
The swoop was the final link on a series to build a 'security perimeter' around the Maracana Stadium, which will be the main venue for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

So far more than 20 slums have been cleared of gangs during a three year operation by authorities in Rio, but officials insist a Police Pacification Unit, or UPP, will be established in the favela and will work with security and social agents on an ongoing basis.

They hope to drive down levels of crime and violence in the slums.

© The Associated Press Taking aim: A member of Brazil's special police unit BOPE points his gun at an unseen target during this morning's operation

© AFP/Getty ImagesAir support: Helicopters took to the skies to aid the ground mission

© ReutersWatching on: A small group of residents watches as a tank manned with members of the Brazilian navy rumbles past their homes
© Reuters
This was believed to be because the drug gangs which were previously in control had already fled.

But some say that by announcing their occupation of a favela several days in advance, the authorities are effectively warning the criminals who had been based there to seek refuge in other neighborhoods where they can continue their crimes.

Following the operation, many residents refused to comment because they feared reprisals by the gangs and those who did speak did not want to give their full names.

Bete, a mother of five told the AFP news agency: 'We were woken at six in the morning by the helicopters. Everything was already calm before that. It would have been better if they spent the money on improving the hospitals.'

Her seven-year-old nephew Donatan said: 'When I heard the noise, my legs started shaking. The house was shaking too. I thought the police were going to start shooting.'

While many residents of Managueria district are afraid of the gangs, others are now worried about police officers on the streets.

They have suggested that there could now be gunfights between officers and drug traffickers.

© ReutersChampions: Brazil have won the World Cup five times, the last time being in 2002 when the tournament was held in Japan and South Korea

© ReutersUnder construction: The Maracana stadium in Rio will host both the 2014 World Cup final and opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games