Twelve people — including six 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 have announced.
Five of the dead hostages were members of the same family and included two children who had been returning from a nearby airport when some of the robbers seized them, the local mayor, Lielson Landim, told the Folhade Sao Paulo newspaper.
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. Two suspects were arrested, according to Costa’s office.
“A heavily armed group arrived in the town in the early hours and went to the centre where they tried to commit the crime. There was an exchange of fire between the suspects and police,” the statement read.
It said six gang members were killed and “another six people died from gunshots.”
Various weapons and explosives, as well as three vehicles used in the bank assaults, were recovered.
Landim had earlier said that, based on initial information, he understood that “the criminals killed the hostages and the police killed the criminals.”
The robbers had reportedly 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 website reported that the robbers “executed” the hostages when police turned up before 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.”