At least 12 people were killed on Friday, including six policemen, in an early morning shootout between police and bank robbers in a small town in northeastern Brazil, the state governor's office said.
The two attempted heists in the state of Ceara began around 2:30 a.m. in the downtown area of the city of Milagres.
Robbers at one bank took several people hostages when police surrounded the area, according to a police statement. A firefight broke out, leaving several dead.
"Our preliminary information is that 12 people died, including six police officers," a spokeswoman for the governor said by telephone.
The G1 news website, quoting Milagres Mayor Lielson Landim, reported that the five dead hostages belonged to the same family. Their car had been hijacked on a nearby highway and taken into town by the armed gang.
Milagres Mayor Lielson Macedo Landim told local media that two children, between 10 and 13 years old, were killed in the shooting. It was not immediately clear how the hostages were taken.
Broadcaster GloboNews said it was the family of a local businessman and that two suspects had been arrested by police.
The gang escaped in two vans without taking any money, G1 said. A local press report said the body of one bank robber was found in an abandoned vehicle by police.
Police were searching for gang members with the help of a helicopter, the mayor's office said.
Latin America's largest nation routinely is the world leader in total annual homicides. Ceara is one of the country's most violent states.