Twelve people, six of them hostages, died Friday in connection with a pair of failed bank robberies in the northeastern Brazilian town of Milagres, authorities said.
Five of the slain hostages were members of the same family, Mayor Lielson Landim told the media, while Ceara state police said that they had three people in custody.
The events began after midnight Thursday with the failures of the gang's assaults on two different banks in the town of roughly 28,000 residents.
With police alerted, the would-be robbers fled in three vehicles on highway BR-116.
The criminals hijacked a truck and parked it astride the road to hamper the police pursuit. They also pulled over two other vehicles, taking the seven occupants hostage.
Police caught up with the assailants shortly before 2 am and the ensuing gunfight went on for nearly 20 minutes, according to witnesses.
The criminals executed the hostages before the shootout, state police said.