Armed robbers have hit three banks in a Brazilian city after taking hostages, reportedly strapping them on car roofs as human shields and leaving a trail of explosives to prevent pursuit, authorities have said.
The robbers shot a police in a gunfight that killed at least three people in Aracatuba, a small city in Sao Paulo state.
More than 20 heavily armed men carried out the attack using 10 cars, executive secretary of Sao Paulo’s military police Alvaro Camilo said.
The military police said in a statement the criminals had used local residents as human shields. Local media reports suggested the hostages had been tied down on top of getaway vehicles. The criminals also burned cars and left a number of explosive booby traps across they city as they fled.
The gang also used drones to monitor the streets as they entered the area and broke into banks, the statement added.
Two of those killed were civilians and one of the alleged assailants was also killed. An onlooker had to have his leg amputated after he was injured in an explosion, authorities said.
Mr Camilo urged people not to leave their houses until all the explosives have been found and deactivated.
He added there were more than 350 police officers in the city who were using two helicopters to track down the perpetrators.
The attack took place around midnight and is the latest in a series of increasingly violent bank heists in Brazil. Experts have said a COVID-19 pandemic welfare programme for poorer people has encouraged robbers to plan more attacks as banks are holding more money.
In December, two similar bank raids too place on consecutive days in Cameta and Cricuma, targeting Banco do Brasil branches.
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