The alleged criminals were gunned down in the early hours of Sunday in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais, where police claimed they had been poised to unleash an attack.

Police in Brazil have killed 25 suspects as part of what authorities called an unprecedented offensive against heavily armed bank robbers whose brazen heists have brought several major cities to a standstill, the Guardian reports.

The alleged criminals were gunned down in the early hours of Sunday in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais, where police claimed they had been poised to unleash an attack.

report in the local O Tempo newspaper said the killings took place at two farmhouses in Varginha, a city about 245 miles (395km) north-west of Rio de Janeiro. “This operation … will go down in history,” the Minas Gerais state security secretary, Rogério Greco, told local radio.

The federal highway police, which took part in the mission, said the group had “a veritable military arsenal” including assault rifles, .50-caliber machine guns, explosives and bulletproof vests.

Layla Brunella, the spokesperson for Minas Gerais’s military police force, said the alleged robbers belonged to Brazil’s “modern-day cangaço” – a reference to the bands of outlaws who roamed the country’s north-eastern backlands in the early 20th century under the leadership of a highwayman called Lampião.

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