RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — At least 12 people, including two children, were killed Friday when police engaged in a shootout with bank robbers, according to authorities in northeastern Brazil.
The two attempted heists in the state of Ceara began around 2:30 a.m. in the downtown area of the city of Milagres, police said in a statement.
News portal G1 reported that the robbers blocked off a road into the downtown and took hostages as they began entering two banks on the same street. When police responded, a firefight ensued, leading to several deaths.
Lielson Macedo Landim, the mayor of Milagres, told G1 the hostages were executed by the criminal group and not killed by police fire. Macedo Landim said that two children, between 10 and 13 years old, were among the dead hostages.
His account could not be immediately verified, as police did not respond to numerous email and phone requests for more information about the shootout or how the hostages died.
Two suspects were apprehended, and several fled, according to the police statement. Authorities also seized three vehicles, several firearms and explosives.
Andre Costa, secretary of public security in Ceara, said that six of the dead were the attackers. Authorities have yet to release identities of the dead.
To search for the remaining would-be robbers, the city announced on its Facebook page that it was suspending public services and urged residents to remain in their homes.
Latin America’s largest nation routinely is the world leader in total annual homicides. Ceara is one of the country’s most violent states.