Shocking footage has emerged of armed bank robbers fleeing a small Brazilian city on Monday with hostages clinging on the front and back of several cars.
The robbers, who had explosives and high-powered rifles, used the locals as human shields after hitting state banks Caixa Federal and Banco do Brasil in Araçatuba, located 520 kilometres from Sao Paulo and home to almost 200,000 people.
The brazen attack occurred around midnight and involved more than 20 men using 10 cars, Alvaro Camilo, the executive secretary of Sao Paulo’s military police, said at a news conference.
After ransacking two branches, the criminals drove away with hostages holding on to the roofs of their cars and hoods to deter police from firing at the getaway convoy.
Another hostage stood with his torso protruding from an SUV’s sunroof and his hands held in the air.
The robbers also burned cars and left a trail of explosive booby traps across the city, the military police said in a statement.
Mr Camilo urged people not to leave their houses until the explosives have been found and deactivated.
The attackers used drones to monitor the streets as they entered the city, hit the banks, and made their getaway, the military statement said.
“Araçatuba was shaken by highly dangerous criminals who fired thousands of shots,” Colonel Rodrigo Arena, the police commander in the region, told reporters after the incident.
Three people killed in clashes with police
There were two separate firefights with police, and three people died, Camilo said. Two of the fatalities were locals — a businessman who went to the location to film the attack and a delivery boy — while one of the alleged assailants was also killed. The suspect was found dead in his car.
The statement said two attackers had been arrested. One passer-by who was injured by an explosion had his leg amputated, it added. Five others were also injured.
There were more than 350 police in the city, using two helicopters to track down the attackers, Mr Camilo said.
He added that a Banco do Brasil SA branch in Araçatuba was a repository to store cash — something state officials were not aware of.
Bank heists more frequent
Large-scale bank heists have become more frequent in recent years, with hostages used as human shields.
Late last December, there were two similar bank raids on consecutive days in the cities of Cametá and Criciúma, targeting Banco do Brasil branches in both cases.
Araçatuba was itself the site of a similar attack in 2017.
Experts believe a Covid-19 pandemic welfare program for poorer Brazilians has encouraged robbers to plan bold raids in sleepy regional cities where bank branches are storing more cash.
With AP and Reuters
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