Rio de Janeiro, Dec 1 (efe-epa).- A group of around 30 hooded and heavily armed assailants stoked terror early Tuesday during a bank robbery in the southern Brazilian city of Criciuma, where over a period of around two hours the gang took hostages, set up roadblocks, torched vehicles and fired gunshots.
The violent incidents occurred in the wee hours of the night, when the criminals stormed into the center of that city of roughly 200,000 inhabitants, located in the state of Santa Catarina, to rob a Banco do Brasil bank branch.
They attacked a police headquarters, took several road workers hostage and set up barricades to impede the passage of security forces while the robbery was being carried out.
A police officer and a security guard were injured, while a truck was set on fire as it was being driven through a tunnel, although firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze.
It is unclear how much money was stolen, but the amount is believed to be sizable judging by the number of bills authorities observed in the back of one of the vehicles.
The robbers also scattered some of the loot on the street as they were making their getaway,
After several local inhabitants expressed alarm on social media, Criciuma Mayor Celsio Salvaro appeared before reporters and issued an appeal for calm.
The scale of the attack was so massive that authorities were forced to ask for security reinforcements from neighboring cities.
Afterward, the criminals fled in 10 “high-horsepower, luxury” vehicles that they later abandoned in a cornfield about 18 kilometers (11 miles) outside the city. No suspects have been arrested to date.
Police also found 30 kilos of explosives that the criminals apparently had been carrying with them during the assault and been planning to use if necessary.
Around 30 highly trained men participated in the assault, using a “simultaneous action” method aimed at provoking terror and diverting the police response during the bank robbery, authorities said.
Authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the robbery was carried out by specialized gangs from other regions of the country. EFE-EPA