SAO PAULO, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Heavily armed Brazilian bank robbers on Tuesday seized several hostages and scattered looted bills in the air following a shootout with police, as they attempted to get away.
According to police reports, the assailants, armed with explosives and assault rifles, arrived aboard 10 vehicles in early morning at the headquarters of the state-run Banco do Brasil, in downtown Criciuma, a city in the southern state of Santa Catarina.
Several of the suspects entered the bank to blast open the safes, while the others got into a firefight with police for more than an hour before taking hostages to escape and throwing an estimated 810,000 reals (about 151,000 U.S. dollars) in the air in the process.
Broadcast footage of the robbery showed the suspects using the hostages as shields to escape.
"This has never happened in all of Santa Catarina," police commissioner Ulisses Gabriel told a local TV station.
"They used rifles ... capable of shooting down helicopters and tens of kilos of explosives. We believe people from outside the state came to commit this crime," Gabriel added.
Preliminary reports said the shootout left at least two police officers injured. The vehicles used by the assailants were found abandoned in a cornfield in the neighboring town of Nova Venecia and all had been stolen.
Police arrested four people for theft as they tried to collect the money left in the street, said the official.
It was not clear how much money the robbers was able to steal.