Armed men take hostages in attack on Brazil's Cametá

  02 December 2020    Read: 310
Armed men take hostages in attack on Brazil @EPA

A gang of armed men has reportedly stormed a city in northern Brazil, attacking a bank and taking hostages.

From initial reports, the overnight attack on Cametá appears to be almost identical to the storming of Criciúma, a city in the south, by gunmen in the early hours of Tuesday.

There is no suggestion that the two incidents are linked. Video footage from Cametá appeared to show a group of hostages being led through the streets.

One hostage died, a local MP tweeted.

However, there has been no official confirmation of anyone being dead or injured.

What happened in Criciúma?

The attack in Criciúma started about midnight local time (03:00 GMT) on Tuesday and lasted more than an hour.

The target of the raid was a branch of Banco do Brasil in the city centre. Armed men blocked roads, took hostages, fired hundreds of shots and used explosives to carry out the robbery.

Military police reported that a fire had been set in a tunnel on the main road leading to the city, presumably to prevent the security forces from sending reinforcements to the town. The police headquarters also came under attack.

A security guard and a military police officer were injured in the attack. After the attack, footage showed a convoy of black cars leaving the town centre in an orderly fashion.

It is not clear how much money the attackers took but some of their loot was scattered across a city street. Video posted on social media showed residents rushing to gather some of the bills.

What's the bigger picture?

Local media have described the raid as part of a phenomenon they call "New Cangaço", which references a term used to describe the banditry that plagued parts of Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s.

Small and medium-sized cities have been the preferred targets. In 2019, there were 21 bank robberies in the state of São Paulo alone, according to official figures. In the first half of 2020, there had already been 14.

Security expert Guaracy Mingardi told BBC Brasi that these large-scale bank robberies started five years ago. The targets are banks and firms which store and transport valuables.

Dozens of criminals take part in a single raid and many of them are heavily armed with machine guns and sometimes even explosives.

While most of the raids have been carried out in Brazil, there has been at least one instance where a Brazilian gang carried out a spectacular robbery in neighbouring Paraguay.



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