Twelve killed in foiled bank as­saults across Brazil

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

>> RIO DE JANEIRO: Twelve peo­ple — in­clud­ing five hostages — were killed in north­east Brazil on Fri­day af­ter po­lice foiled a gang of armed rob­bers stag­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ous predawn as­saults on two banks in the town of Mi­la­gres, of­fi­cials said.

The five dead hostages were members of the same fam­ily and in­cluded two chil­dren, the lo­cal mayor, Liel­son Landim, told the Folha de Sao Paulo news­pa­per. They had been re­turn­ing from a nearby air­port when some of the rob­bers seized them.

The sec­re­tary for se­cu­rity in the state of Ceara, An­dre Costa, said in a state­ment that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­ing car­ried out to iden­tify those killed and the cir­cum­stances of their deaths.

Mr Costa did not say whose bul­lets killed the hostages. Mr Landim had ear­lier said that, based on ini­tial in­for­ma­tion, he un­der­stood that “the crim­i­nals killed the hostages and the po­lice killed the crim­i­nals”.

Two sus­pects were ar­rested, ac­cord­ing to Mr Costa’s of­fice.

“A heav­ily armed group ar­rived in the town in the early hours and went to the cen­tre of town, where they tried to com­mit the crime. There was an exchange of fire be­tween the sus­pects and po­lice,” it said.

It said six gang members were killed and “an­other six peo­ple died from gun­shots”.

The iden­tity of the 12th vic­tim was not im­me­di­ately clear.

Var­i­ous weapons and ex­plo­sives as well as three ve­hi­cles used in the bank as­saults were re­cov­ered.

The gang had launched si­mul­ta­ne­ous as­saults on two banks on the same street in Mi­la­gres — pop­u­la­tion 28,000 — shortly af­ter 2am lo­cal time.

Ac­cord­ing to the G1 news web­site, the rob­bers had blocked a street with a truck and stopped the car car­ry­ing the fam­ily, which in­cluded rel­a­tives who had just ar­rived on a flight from Sao Paulo to cel­e­brate Christ­mas with them.

G1 re­ported that the rob­bers “ex­e­cuted” the hostages when po­lice turned up. It said some of the gang man­aged to es­cape.

“I’ve never seen any­thing like it. I stayed in­side my home, cow­er­ing and afraid,” a lo­cal res­i­dent, Men­donca de Santa He­lena, told me­dia. “I heard peo­ple yelling and cry­ing. It was hor­ri­ble.”

Shaken by the vi­o­lence, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Mi­la­gres sus­pended most of its ac­tiv­i­ties on Fri­day and asked res­i­dents to stay at home “until or­der is re­stored”.

Brazil is one of the most vi­o­lent coun­tries in the world, suf­fer­ing nearly 64,000 mur­ders last year — a homi­cide rate of 30.8 per 100,000 in­hab­i­tants that is three times higher than the level the United Na­tions con­sid­ers to be en­demic vi­o­lence.

On Jan­uary 1, a far-right politi­cian promis­ing a re­lent­less crack­down on crime, Jair Bol­sonaro, will be­come Brazil’s new pres­i­dent fol­low­ing his elec­tion in Oc­to­ber.

KEEP­ING GUARD: Po­lice of­fi­cers guard the ex­te­rior of a bank af­ter a shoot­ing, in Mi­la­gres, Brazil on Fri­day.

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