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Gang hits gem-cutting plant in Brazil, flees with hostages

Published on Dec 31, 2012 6:04 AM
View of the wreckage of the door of a gem-cutting plant after a robbery in Cotipora, Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil on December 30, 2012. Three of the assailants died while others fled with nine hostages into a wooded area with police in cars and helicopters in pursuit. -- PHOTO: AFP

BRASILIA (AFP) - Military police killed one of Brazil's most wanted men after his gang spectacularly blasted its way into a gem-cutting plant on Sunday, traded fire with police and made off with nine hostages.

"We have not had contact with the criminals to negotiate the hostages' release. And we also do not know exactly where they are," Rio Grande do Sul state military chief Sergio Abreu told reporters.

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. 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 area where the strike was carried out is in the heart of Brazil's gem-cutting industry. It is a world leader in exporting many semiprecious stones such as topaz, aquamarine and amethyst. The robbers detonated dynamite to storm into the plant, then ran into police on their way out, the military police official said.

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