At least 67 people were killed over the weekend in the largest organized attack yet by drug gangs against Brazilian police and security forces, officials confirmed early yesterday.
The apparent offensive of violence by organized crime groups was launched on Friday night and continued through Sunday in Sao Paulo, and outlying regions of Sao Paulo state.
The drug gangs were also blamed on Sunday for ongoing uprisings by prisoners in at least 60 correctional facilities. Hundreds of prison visitors were being held hostage by inmates in the penitentiary system.
Among the dead during the weekend attacks on police stations, in jails and at other sites were 35 police officers and prison guards, three civilian bystanders and 14 suspected gang members. Another 60 people have been wounded, and 20 men have been arrested.
An estimated 150 attacks took place within a 40-hour period against police stations and patrol vehicles, military facilities and prison outposts.
Police in Sao Paulo city were maintaining numerous roadblocks over the weekend, and key buildings such as police headquarters were under heavy guard.
Authorities believed the coordinated mayhem was retaliation by gangsters to the relocation of about 740 inmates in the preceding days. Among the forced transfers were at least eight high-ranking gang bosses who were placed in solitary confinement.
One gang, known as Primeiro Comando da Capital or the First Capital Command, was suspected of coordinating many of the attacks and prison revolts.
Saulo de Castro Abreu Filho, security minister for Sao Paulo state, called the uprising an "act of desperation."
"Such actions by criminals will never be successful," he said.
Enio Lucciola, spokesman for the Sao Paulo State Public Safety Department, said the attacks and prison rebellions "were the most vicious and deadliest attacks on public security forces that have ever taken place in Brazil."
The rebellious inmates, however, have not made any demands nor have they harmed any of their hostages, said Jorge de Souza, a press spokesman of the Sao Paulo Prison Affairs Department.