At least 12 dead in 2 bank heists in northeast Brazil

Forensic officers load the body of a victim killed in an attempted bank robbery at an entrance of a municipal hospital in Milagres

At least 12 people, including two children, were killed on Friday when a shootout broke out between police and bank robbers, according to authorities in north-eastern Brazil.

"The criminals killed the hostages and the police killed the criminals", he added.

Landim had earlier said that, based on initial information, he understood that "the criminals killed the hostages and the police killed the criminals".

Two suspects were arrested, according to Costa's office. They were grabbed by the fleeing robbers on the highway when they were on the way to the nearby airport to catch a flight, he added.

Five hostages, including two children, died in the shootout, local media reported, when police interrupted a gang trying to rob ATMs at two bank branches on the main street in Milagres in the interior of Ceará state.

Explosives seized by police after the shootout with bank robbers
APExplosives seized by police after the shootout with bank robbers

Six other people also died in the gun battle in the city of Milagres, reports say. Landim told Globo newspaper that the family members were taken from a vehicle that was forced to stop because the robbers had blocked a road with a truck, according to BBC News.

The gang escaped in two vans without taking any money, G1 said.

"I've never seen anything like it before", Mendonca de Santa Helena said. "I heard people yelling and crying".

Brazil is one of the most violent countries in the world, suffering almost 64,000 murders past year - a homicide rate of 30.8 per 100,000 inhabitants that is three times higher than the level the United Nations considers to be endemic violence.

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