Twenty-five armed robbers have been killed by Brazilian police in a brutal shootout after a string of bank heists.
Fifty policemen raided two farms outside the southern city of Varginha on Sunday after being tipped off that the thieves were preparing attacks on several local bank branches.
‘Our idea was to make arrests, but from the moment they recognised our presence, the fight started,’ Aristides Amaral Junior, a highway police spokesperson, told Globo. ‘They had weapons of war. Tons of gasoline, explosives.’
Eighteen suspects were killed on the first farm and seven at the second. There were no casualties among the security forces.
Photos showed a vast arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns and ammunition seized in the swoop.
Police recovered a trove of weaponry, ammunition, gasoline and explosives, as well as stolen cars following the raid on two farms outside the southern city of Varginha
The military seized a trove of weaponry from the robbers, with assault rifles and shotguns lined up in front of a pile of magazines
A high-powered rifle seized by the military police following the raid on two farms near Varginha, Minas Gerais State
Brazil has faced a spate of elaborate and professional bank heists, dubbed ‘the new banditry,’ which involve shock-and-awe tactics and the deployment of modern weapons and gadgets.
The heists are choreographed to precision and follow a similar pattern: at the end of the month, when the vaults are filled with cash, heavily-armed gangsters storm into towns at night, letting off explosives and firing weapons to ward off the police before they smash their way into the local bank.
Experts say that the displays of strength are designed to panic the local police forces who believe that they do not have the firepower or manpower to intervene.
At the end of August, the group which police raided on Sunday caused mayhem in the city of Araçatuba, blowing up vehicles and tying hostages to their cars during assaults on several banks.
Three people were killed in the pandemonium.
‘In Araçatuba, the vehicles were painted black,’ Rodolfo César Morotti Fernandes, spokesman of an elite Brazilian police force that assisted in the operation, told local media.
‘One of the vehicles we apprehended was already being painted black and we found black spray paint, showing the similarity.’
Officers say that the group also unleashed chaos in the city of Criciúma in southern Santa Catarina where at least 30 gangsters in 10 cars stormed a police station and held up Banco do Brasil.
Officials called it the largest bank robbery in state history.
Following Sunday’s raid on the farms, Captain Layla Brunnela, of the Military Police, said: ‘It is probably our largest operation against this type of crime in the country.
‘Many suspects were going to rob banks and were surprised by our intelligence service.’
Then, ‘when we started the operation, we were shot at, so the military had to respond to the unjust attack to protect their lives,’ Lieutenant Colonel Rodolfo Morotti Fernandes, commander of the Police Special Operations Battalion, told a briefing in Minas Gerais.
The death toll in the raid again puts the Brazilian police in the spotlight, who have a fearsome reputation for not shrinking from violence.
In May, there were international headlines when a dawn raid on a favela in Rio de Janeiro left 25 people dead.
Gruesome pictures had shown family homes filled with blood after wounded gangsters fleeing the police crawled into people’s living rooms to bleed to death.
The incident led to protests and claims that police had summarily executed the alleged criminals. Police have denied the accusations.