Hostage horror in Brazilian bank job
SAO PAULO: In scenes out of a Hollywood heist blockbuster, a ruthless gang of Brazilian bank robbers strapped hostages to the roofs and bonnets of their getaway cars to stop police shooting at them after pulling off a series of meticulously planned raids.
The robberies, involving about 20 men with assault rifles, targeted three banks in Aracatuba in the country’s central Sao Paulo state.
Three people were killed, including one who was seen filming the gang.
The group sealed off the city centre shortly after 1am by hijacking cars and setting them alight, blocking access points. Several cars were seen having been set on fire around the local police station. Branches of the Banco do Brasil, Banco Safra and Caixa Economica were hit and an unknown amount of cash was stolen.
A drone seen flying over the city during the raids was apparently used to track police movements.
As they made their escape, the gang approached random people on the street at gunpoint and strapped them to their vehicles.
They also left explosives with infra-red trigger sensors around the city to deter pursuit cars. Yuri Macri, a television journalist, posted a video that appeared to show two of the getaway cars. On the first, a person is tied to the roof and another to the bonnet. Another car passes with a hostage crouching on the bonnet.
The mayor of Aracatuba, Dilador Borges, described the scenes as “a horror” and asked the city’s residents to stay at home.
The hostages were understood to have been released later with minor injuries.
Bank raids on provincial cities, where security is weaker, have become increasingly common in Brazil. Last December, two cities were targeted by gangs in the space of 24 hours. As in the raid on Aracatuba, the police response was impeded by blocked roads and the use of hostages.
In previous attacks, bystanders have been forced at gunpoint to lie down on access roads.
In the early 20th century, a banditry epidemic known as the Cangaco involved the criminal takeover of small towns in Brazil’s interior.
Some of the Cangaco leaders are today honoured as folk heroes by drug lords and other criminal gangs.