Crime Gangs Stage Attacks in Sao Paulo

Suspected members one of Brazil's most notorious organized crime groups attacked a police station and two banks in Sao Paulo, officials said Wednesday, the latest in a series of attacks that have killed hundreds in recent months.

The attacks late Tuesday were apparently carried out in retaliation for the transfer of nearly 80 members of the First Capital Command, or PCC, from one maximum security penitentiary to another, the O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.

Gunmen in South America's biggest city opened fire as they drove past a police station in the industrial suburb of Sao Bernardo do Campo, shattering roof tiles and a patrol car's windshield, the Public Safety Department's press office said. No one was injured.

A man wearing a face mask torched four ATMs in the upper-middle class neighborhood of Brooklin. Bank security cameras showed the attacker spreading alcohol on the machines and using a match to set them on fire.

At least two attackers hurled Molotov cocktails at a bank in the Pompeia district, causing little damage, the press department said.

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Police wouldn't discuss possible motives behind the new attacks. But the newspaper reported they fit a pattern that has led to many deaths in Sao Paulo this year.

Anchored in local prisons, the PCC is led by hardened criminals who issue their orders via cell phones and instructions given to their attorneys and visiting relatives. Authorities say the group is behind a series of attacks against police and civilian targets that have killed more than 200 people since May.

Earlier this month, the PCC kidnapped a television reporter and forced his station to broadcast a video in which it called for improvements in the country's prison system. The reporter was released unharmed.

The PCC was originally formed in the 1990s to press for improved prison conditions, but quickly began using its power inside prisons to direct drug and arms trafficking, bank holdups, kidnappings, extortion and killings on the outside.

Police say the gang is responsible for organizing most of the prison rebellions in Sao Paulo state and exerts influence over 95 percent of the 140,000 prison inmates in the state.