Police say they have arrested three men suspected of involvement in a spate of killings of homeless people in Brazil's central-western state of Goias.

The Goias state police department says in a statement that the three were arrested early Wednesday morning. They are suspected of trying to kill a homeless man last Saturday and of murdering six others in the state capital of Goiania.

The statement says that Saturday's victim was shot several times, but survived and identified the three gunmen.

Police in Goias say the killings of homeless people may be related to unpaid drug debts. Federal law enforcement officials have said the killings may be the work of extermination groups hired to kill suspected criminals.