SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Police in Sao Paulo state shot and killed 11 assailants who were preparing to blow up automated bank teller machines simultaneously at two branches early on Thursday, authorities said.
Sao Paulo state’s Public Security Secretariat said in a statement that about 25 suspects were involved in the attempts to blow up the machines to get the cash inside, a common crime in Brazil. Along with the 11 killed, another two men were arrested. No money was stolen.
The would-be robbers drove up to the banks in five armored cars and were armed with high-caliber rifles and body armor, authorities said.
Police arrived at the banks and confronted the assailants, who fled and led police on a rolling shootout through the city of Guararema, located about 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of central metropolitan Sao Paulo.
The suspects broke into a home at one point and held the residents hostage, “but police managed to free them,” the secretariat said, without providing more details.
No police were injured during the operation.
Police commander Mario Silva told Globo TV that the criminal group was under surveillance, and that “we already knew they were going to carry out an attack in this area.
“We did not know exactly where the attack would take place,” Silva said. “But we increased police forces in the area over the past 24 hours.”
Far right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has publicly called for Brazil’s already lethal police force to carry out more killings of suspected criminals, praised the action.
“Eleven criminals were killed and not a single innocent was injured. Great work!” Bolsonaro tweeted.
Brazil’s Bolsonaro suffers first defeat in Congress
Earlier, Brazil’s lower chamber handed right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro his first defeat in Congress, the day before his government presents its most important legislative proposal to rein in a gaping budget deficit and spur growth.
The house voted overwhelmingly to suspend an executive order by the Bolsonaro government that altered Brazil’s freedom of information law to broaden the number of officials allowed to designate data and documents as secret or ultra-secret.
Lawmakers voted 367 to 57 to fast-track a bill overturning the secrecy measure and government whips were unable to muster votes to avoid defeat.