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A gang of armed thieves laid siege to a Brazilian city and assaulted banks in what the city’s mayor called a “robbery of great proportions.” Video footage caught the brazen criminals in action, before police arrested several.

The thieves, described by a Military Police commander as “a gang that specializes in bank robbery,” stormed the city of Criciuma shortly before midnight on Monday. More than two dozen men arrived in a convoy of vehicles, sealed off roads around a bank branch and held hostages in the streets to discourage police from intervening.

“Criciuma is the target of a major assault,” Mayor Clesio Salvaro told residents, adding that the city was undergoing a “robbery of great proportions, by very well-prepared thieves.” As videos of gunmen patrolling the streets were shared on social media, Salvaro told the city’s 220,000 people to “stay home,” and “let the police do their job.”

O grupo está com lança foguetes em Criciúma!!! @RdGauchapic.twitter.com/jvUFVVEaHV

Clips shared on video platform TikTok purportedly showed a hole blown out of the bank’s vault, as lookouts guarded the streets and rooftops. At street level, groups of hostages blocked the roads, apparently as human barriers to prevent police from getting to the scene.

So, for those just waking up, the town of Criciúma in #Brasil was besieged last night starting around midnight. The purpose to rob the local Banco do Brasil branch. They were successful, the amount unknown.This TikTok provides a summary of the imagerypic.twitter.com/1hjSY51ne0

Galera de Criciúma,tomam cuidado,eles estão com refens e estão pegando mais,estão atirando nos carros que estão passando..Tem mais de 10 carros pretos espalhados por Criciúma..E estão todos com armas pesadas. pic.twitter.com/48UnUGCFA4

One video clip caught the moment an explosion was set off inside a bank.

Momento em que um banco é explodido em Criciúma. 😱 pic.twitter.com/pwQYj2PrP3

The heist lasted more than an hour, and bouts of gunfire echoed over the city. Two people, including a police officer, were reported shot. No deaths were reported.

Centro de Criciúma agora! pic.twitter.com/ODA3g7CgqG

By the time the thieves fled, Salvaro told a local radio station that four sites had been looted, and that the criminals made off in a convoy of cars. Four suspects were arrested on Tuesday morning, and a quantity of cash was recovered, though police did not say now much was stolen.

For some residents of Criciuma, the story had a happy ending. Piles of banknotes lay scattered around the city after the robbery, which were eagerly scooped up by opportunistic locals.

Basicamente as pessoas estão no centro de Criciúma catando o dinheiro que caiu no chão!! Inacreditável!!!!! 🤯🤯🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/ZVglH4Wmhj

Brazil has a robbery rate more than four times higher than the world average, according to UN figures. Similar heists to Monday’s assault on Criciuma have been reported in the cities of Araraquara, Botucatu, and Ourinhos in recent months.

Last year, a group of armed robbers disguised themselves as police officers to steal a whopping 750kg of gold in broad daylight from a Sao Paulo airport terminal. Without firing a single shot, the thieves pulled off the third-biggest robbery in Brazilian history.

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