After a raid in the southern Brazilian city of Araçatuba, bank robbers lashed hostages to the tops of their getaway vehicles.
At least three people were slain, according to police, including one suspect. More than 50 people were involved in the theft, according to officials, who blocked highways with burning automobiles and planted explosive devices throughout the city.
In recent years, large-scale bank robberies have become increasingly common, with hostages being exploited as human shields.
The mayor said he didn’t know if the hostages had been released yet, but that security personnel had retaken control of the city centre.
On Monday, schools will be closed, and the mayor has encouraged residents to stay indoors, warning them of the dangers posed by explosive devices.
In the early hours of Monday local time, a gang of heavily armed men stormed three banks in the heart of Araçatuba.
Following the robbery, the gang kidnapped a number of people and besieged the nearby military police station with hostages. Local media stated that gang members also set cars on fire to obstruct important access roads into the city.
Many residents claimed to have heard gunshots and even explosions. It’s unclear how much money the assailants made off with, although other cameras appear to show a householder accumulating bank notes in the street. Drones were used by the gang to track police activities from the air.
Araçatuba has been the target of bank thieves on several occasions. As part of a robbery of a private security agency in 2017, criminals took possession of different critical locations throughout the city, attacked police stations, and blocked roadways.
These well-planned crimes are part of a phenomenon known in Brazil as New “Cangaço,” a name that refers to the banditry that afflicted sections of the country in the 1920s and 1930s.
The preferred targets have been small and medium-sized cities. These large-scale robberies began to become increasingly common around 2015, according to security specialist Guaracy Mingardi. Banks and companies that keep and transfer valuables are the targets.
While the majority of the raids took place in Brazil, there was at least one incident in which a Brazilian gang committed a spectacular robbery in neighbouring Paraguay.