aljazeera– Bank robbers in southern Brazil blasted explosives and fired high-calibre weapons at police late on Monday, in an audacious heist that wounded two people and left reams of cash in the streets to be pocketed by locals.
The robbery began just before midnight on Monday in the southern city of Criciuma and lasted nearly two hours, according to a statement from military police in Santa Catarina state.
Terrifying images shared on social media showed armed men firing automatic weapons on the city streets, taking hostages and then making their getaway in a fleet of cars. In their wake, the robbers left cash strewn across the streets. Residents soon spread out to snatch up the notes, television footage showed.
“So far, four people have been arrested who collected part of the paper bills that were thrown to the ground due to the explosion,” the police said.
Authorities have located 810,000 reals ($154,120), police added.
There were at least 30 criminals in 10 cars, Anselmo Cruz, the head of the state police’s robbery and kidnapping department, told television network Globo News. They blocked access points to the city to prevent police reinforcements from responding swiftly.
“It was an unprecedented action for the state. There was never anything with this scope, this violence,” Cruz said Tuesday.
Police later located the attackers’ vehicles in a neighbouring municipality, Cruz said.
Criciuma’s Mayor Clesio Salvaro took to Twitter while the events were still unfolding to warn locals of the “robbery of great proportions, by very well-prepared thieves”.
“As mayor of Criciuma, I ask that you stay home, don’t leave home, exercise all precaution,” Salvaro said in a video he posted just before 2am local time (05:00 GMT). “Tell your friends and families. Let the police do their job.”
Translation: Criciuma is under a major attack. Together with the military authorities and security forces, we will continue to monitor and follow the latest facts. Please stay home. BE VERY CAREFUL!
Brazil has a long history of bank heists, and major lenders have struggled with a wave of violent robberies in recent years as criminals have mastered the use of explosives to access cash.
The brazen robbery resembles another that took place in July in the city of Botucatu, in Sao Paulo state. There, around 30 armed men blew up a bank branch, took residents hostage and exchanged gunfire with police officers before making their getaway.