At least 12 people killed in two bank heists in north-east Brazil

The violence erupted in Milagres in the state of Ceara with a fierce pre-dawn shoot-out

The violence erupted in Milagres in the state of Ceara with a fierce pre-dawn shoot-out

The violence erupted on Friday in the city of Milagres in the northeastern state of Ceara with a fierce pre-dawn shoot-out between the armed robbers and the police. It said three suspects have been arrested by police.

Some Brazilian media gave higher death tolls of up to 13 and said the child killed was a 14-year-old boy.

Lielson Macedo Landim, the mayor of Milagres, told G1 the hostages were executed by the criminal group and not killed by police fire.

However, a spokeswoman for the state governor said that 12 people had died, including six police officers. Ceara is one of the country's most violent states. They had been returning from a nearby airport when some of the robbers seized them.

Five of the alleged gang members died in the night-time shootout shortly after 2am local time, two died in hospital of bullet wounds and an eighth was gunned down in a police pursuit, it said. Their vehicle had been hijacked by the armed gang that took them as hostages. Brazilian authorities say that at least 12 people have been killed in two attempted bank robberies in Milagres downtown area. The gang then fled, reportedly grabbing the hostages on their way.

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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 screaming and people crying", he added.

Latin America's largest nation routinely is the world leader in total annual murders.

On January 1, a far-right politician promising a relentless crackdown on crime, Jair Bolsonaro, will become Brazil's new president following his election in October.

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