Dozens of tourists were held up at gunpoint for two hours in a mass robbery as they hiked towards the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.
According to police, three individuals armed with knives and a gun, set up an ambush as the tourists walked through forest trail up to the monument in Rio de Janeiro.
More than 30 people were thought to have been robbed of a number of items including mobile phones and credit cards, but nobody was hurt in the incident on Thursday, police said.
The thieves took hostages on the trail and waited for more tourists to arrive, with some held for up to two hours.
Around half of the people robbed were tourists from Europe, South America and Asia, as reported by Merco Press.
An aerial view of ‘Christ The Redeemer’ statue, a very popular tourist attraction in the city of Rio de Janeiro
The brazen robberies come shortly after new President Jair Bolsonaro was elected on a strict law-and-order platform, and just as Rio de Janeiro is suffering from a record crime wave.
Bolsonaro has vowed to crack down on Brazil’s rampant crime by extending immunity to soldiers and police using lethal force and easing gun laws so ‘good’ citizens can challenge armed criminals.
The 63-year-old’s new government has already sent military police to a violent northeastern state following a wave of attacks on banks, public buildings and vehicles over the past two days.
Camilo Santana, the governor of Ceara state, said that 45 people have been arrested in connection with the dozens of attacks, which have hit 15 cities in the state, including the capital, Fortaleza.
The attacks have left the burned shells of cars and buses on streets, and badly damaged the entrances to buildings.
Newly sworn-in Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during his inauguration ceremony at the Congress in Brasilia. He has pledged a crackdown on crime and corruption
While the motive behind the attacks is not confirmed, state authorities believe they are revenge for the recent announcement of tighter rules governing the state’s prisons and inmates.
Brazil’s prison gangs are powerful and their reach extends outside the country’s penitentiaries.
Brazil’s Justice and Public Security Ministry, led by popular former anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro, ordered the military police sent to Ceara at the request of Santana given the ‘urgent’ nature of the threat. Authorities did not provide more details about the deployment.
The far-right president, a former paratrooper, has made ‘restoring order’ a centerpiece of his four-year mandate.