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Nine dead in Chicago's most violent weekend of the year

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Nine people were killed, two by police officers, over the past three days in Chicago's most violent weekend of the year, amid a rise in gang violence in the city.

Homicides in Chicago drew international attention last year as they hit their highest since 2008, but the weekend violence comes as the city's overall rate of murder is declining, according to police.

The two people shot dead by police included a 15-year-old boy carrying a high-powered handgun in the city's troubled South Side Englewood neighborhood on Sunday night and a 24-year-old man. Each was threatening police with a firearm, said a representative for the city's police union.

With the police shootings, there were nine violent deaths - eight by gunfire - between Friday afternoon and Sunday night. There were 26 shootings, police said. The police shootings are being investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority.

Despite the weekend spike in violence, the city's overall murder rate is down, Chicago Police said, with 162 murders reported so far this year. That is down 31 percent from the same time period in 2012 and less than half the number of killings reported at this point in 2011.

"While we've had fewer murders to date this year than any year since the mid-1960s, there's more work to be done and whether it's police, clergy, community organizations, parents or residents, we all have a role to play in continuing to reduce violence," said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in a statement.

Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden said the nine fatalities made the weekend the most violent so far this year.

There were 738 shootings so far in 2013, down from 1,010 at this time last year.

Gang fighting has taken a toll on predominantly African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods of Chicago, with the city surpassing 500 homicides in 2012 for the first time since 2008.

The union has complained that police need more manpower to fight crime.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Scott Malone and Cynthia Osterman)

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