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Brazil gang attacks leave 52 dead

From journalist Tom Hennigan in Sao Paulo

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Civilian policemen inside a station that came under attack on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

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Sao Paulo (Brazil)
Organized Crime
Brazil

SAO PAULO, Brazil (CNN) -- A criminal gang in Brazil launched a wave of attacks against police stations in greater Sao Paulo and uprisings in 64 jails across Sao Paulo state at the weekend, resulting in at least 52 deaths, authorities said.

The violence began Friday evening. By Sunday evening there were reports of at least 100 separate attacks outside of the prisons, conducted with machine guns and grenades, that continued until dawn.

Despite a growing number of prisons with rebellions, Sao Paolo Governor Claudio Lembo said the situation was under control and he did not need any help from the federal government.

According to the Sao Paulo state government, the dead include 35 security personnel -- police and prison guards -- three civilians, and 14 suspected gang members.

Enio Lucciola, press spokesman for the Sao Paulo State Public Safety Department, said the attacks are "obviously the work of the PCC," the Primeiro Comando da Capital, or the First Capital Command.

Isolation plan

The rebellion apparently stemmed from a government plan to isolate PCC leaders in a new maximum-security facility deep in the interior of Sao Paulo state. The violence began when the transfer started.

This conflict is part of an ongoing battle of wills between Sao Paulo authorities and the PCC.

Rebellions occurred Saturday in 64 of the 74 prisons in the state of Sao Paulo, according to state prison affairs secretary Nagashi Furukawa.

Prisoners were holding more than 174 hostages, including prison employees and visiting families, in the prison revolt, Furukawa said.

Police said they have arrested 17 people in connection with these attacks.

The PCC formed in the early 1990s as a prison gang and has grown into a major criminal enterprise, conducting such actions as bank robbery, drug trafficking, kidnapping and arms trafficking.

Brazil has two types of prisons, with college-educated convicts separated from the less-educated criminals.

The rebellions are under way in the prisons for the less-educated, which are effectively controlled by the gangs inside them.

Inmates in those prisons join the gangs to survive and are expected to pay dues to the gangs once they are released.

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