A gang of robbers starred in scenes of terror at dawn this Monday in the city of Aracatuba (500 kilometers west of São Paulo), in an action that killed three people and involved robberies of two bank branches and the use of residents as human shields for the escape. One of those killed in the attack is one of the suspects. Another six people were injured, according to information updated this afternoon by the State Secretariat for Public Security, which says it is continuing the search for the assailants.
Hooded men arrived after midnight, heavily armed and carrying explosives, in about 10 cars, according to press reports. They spread around the center shooting, closed the accesses to the city to prevent the entry of the police and robbed the banks.
During the escape, the assailants took several residents hostage to prevent them from being neutralized by the police. Some of the victims were tied to the hood of their vehicles to facilitate their escape, as shown in images posted on social networks by reporters covering the west of São Paulo. Other images recorded by residents show a man collecting ballots that were scattered on the floor.
The criminals burned a truck and left it side by side at one of the entrances to prevent the passage of police reinforcements sent from neighboring towns. They even used a drone to monitor the movement of police officers.
Authorities have asked the population to stay in their homes and for classes to be suspended to prevent further damage. It is suspected that the bandits have left explosive charges hidden in the streets.
In a statement, the Secretariat of Public Security informs that the searches to locate the criminals are still in progress. In addition to the MP from Araçatuba, with the support of teams from three other cities, the GATE (Special Tactical Action Group) was moved to the crime area.
Araçatuba is a city of 200,000 inhabitants, relatively small by São Paulo standards, and an easy target for an assault of this type. Three years ago, he was the victim of a similar, albeit minor, action to rob a cash-transport company. In recent months there have also been attacks in other cities in São Paulo.
Armed robberies are one of the forms of financing organized crime gangs, such as the PCC, whose main stronghold is the State of São Paulo.
Support news production like this. Subscribe to EL PAÍS for 30 days for 1 US$
sign up on here to receive the daily newsletter of EL PAÍS Brasil: reports, analyses, exclusive interviews and the main information of the day in your e-mail, from Monday to Friday. sign up also to receive our weekly newsletter on Saturdays, with highlights of coverage for the week.