Rio de Janeiro:
Armed robbers attacked several banks in a small Brazilian town on Monday, using locals as human shields, leaving a trail of explosives and firing at police in an attack that killed at least three people, a senior state security official said. .
The brutal midnight attack in Aracatuba, a city of about 200,000 in the interior of the state of Sao Paulo, is the latest in a string of increasingly violent recent bank robberies in Brazil. Experts believe a COVID-19 pandemic welfare program for poor Brazilians has encouraged robbers to plan daring raids on sleepy regional cities where bank branches store more money.
More than 20 heavily armed men carried out the attack with 10 cars, Alvaro Camilo, the executive secretary of Sao Paulo’s military police, said at a news conference. As the criminals fled, they used locals as human shields and burned cars, leaving a trail of explosive booby traps throughout the city, military police said in a statement.
The attackers used drones to monitor the streets as they entered the city, reached the riverbanks and escaped, the statement said.
Camilo urged people not to leave their homes until the explosives are found and deactivated.
There were two separate gun battles with police and three people died, Camilo said. Two of the fatalities were local residents, while one of the alleged attackers was also killed.
The statement states that two attackers have been arrested. A passerby injured in an explosion had his leg amputated, it added.
There were more than 350 police officers in the city, who used two helicopters to track down the attackers, Camilo said.
He added that a branch of Banco do Brasil SA in Aracatuba was a warehouse to store cash – something state officials were not aware of.
At the end of December last year, there were two similar bank robberies in the cities of Cameta and Criciuma on consecutive days, in both cases targeting the Banco do Brasil branches.
Camilo said it was too early to say where the most recent raid was related to other recent attacks.
Brazil has a long history of bank robberies and major lenders have experienced a spate of violent robberies in recent years.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)