Home Latin America Brazil bank heist: Armed men take hostages in attack on Cametá

Brazil bank heist: Armed men take hostages in attack on Cametá


A gang of armed men has stormed a city in northern Brazil, attacking a bank and taking hostages.

The overnight attack on Cametá appears to be almost identical to one in Criciúma, a city in the south, by gunmen in the early hours of Tuesday.

There is no suggestion that the two incidents are linked. Video footage from Cametá appeared to show a group of hostages being led through the streets.

One person died in the attack, according to the city’s mayor.

Waldo Valenti did not give any more details but a local lawmaker, Éder Mauro, said the victim was one of the hostages, who “had been shot in the head”.

Photos posted by Mr Mauro appear to show groups of gunmen on the street and hostages being taken.

It appears that the target of the attack was a branch of Banco do Brasil, the same bank robbed in Criciúma the previous night.

Both raids happened after midnight and involved gunmen entering the city in a convoy of dozens of cars. In both instances, hostages were taken and used as human shields.

Security forces have been sent to the scene. The governor of Cametá’s Pará state, Helder Barbalho, said: “We will do our best to ensure that peace is resumed as soon as possible and that the criminals are arrested.”

Local media are reporting that the gunmen were in the city for about 90 minutes before making their getaway, first in a convoy of cars and then by boat on the Tocantins river.

What happened in Criciúma?

This attack started about midnight local time on Tuesday and lasted more than an hour.

The target of the raid was a branch of Banco do Brasil in the city centre. Armed men blocked roads, took hostages, fired hundreds of shots and used explosives to carry out the robbery.

Military police reported that a fire had been set in a tunnel on the main road leading to the city, presumably to prevent security forces from sending reinforcements. The police headquarters also came under attack.

A security guard and a military police officer were injured. After the attack, footage showed a convoy of black cars leaving the town centre in an orderly fashion.

It is not clear how much money the attackers took but some cash was scattered across a city street. Video posted on social media showed residents rushing to gather some of the bills.

What’s the bigger picture?

Local media have described the raids as part of a phenomenon they call “New Cangaço”, which references a term used to describe the banditry that plagued parts of Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s.

Small and medium-sized cities have been the preferred targets. In 2019, there were 21 bank robberies in the state of São Paulo alone, according to official figures. In the first half of 2020, there had already been 14.

Security expert Guaracy Mingardi told BBC Brasil that these large-scale bank robberies started five years ago. The targets are banks and firms that store and transport valuables.

Dozens of criminals take part in a single raid and many of them are heavily armed with machine guns and sometimes even explosives.

While most of the raids have been carried out in Brazil, there has been at least one instance where a Brazilian gang carried out a spectacular robbery in neighbouring Paraguay.