Hostages taken from Brazil gem-cutting plant

2012-12-30 22:09

Brasilia - Robbers in Brazil blasted their way into a gem-cutting plant on Sunday and fled with nine hostages, police said.

Three of the assailants died in the assault in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, a military police official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The attackers fled with their hostages into a wooded area of the town of Cotipora, with police in cars and helicopters in pursuit, the official said.

The robbers used explosives to storm into the plant, then ran into police on their way out, the police official said.

"There was an intense firefight. Three assailants died and two police were injured," the official said.

As they made their escape, the attackers split into two groups: one took hostage two people who were in a bar, and the other broke into a home and abducted seven people, apparently all members of one family.

The forest is thick and hard to move around in, and police have it surrounded, said Altair de Freitas, deputy commander of the military in Rio Grande do Sul. Special operations teams with sniffer dogs are taking part in the search, he added.

News reports said the gang of robbers was made up of nine men with rifles, led by one of the region's most wanted criminals. He died in the firefight, according to these reports.