Kidnappers, Police Continue Standoff As Getaway Plane Refuses to Land
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Four armed fugitives agreed Saturday to release three hostages in return for a plane to Paraguay, but they refused to hand over the captives when the plane turned back because of darkness, police said.
Police on a highway in south-central Brazil continued to surround the armored car where the fugitives held the three hostage late Saturday.
″We’re back to square one,″ said Jairo Pires, a spokesman with the Sao Paulo State Security Department, said in a telephone interview.
The kidnappers, two married couples, had agreed to trade their captives for the aircraft and a pilot Saturday, police said.
But after the plane took off from Presidente Prudente Airport, 635 miles southwest of Rio, the pilot turned back, saying it was too dark to land on the highway, according to police.
The kidnappers began their crime spree on Aug. 3 when they abducted a boy from his home in Goiania, 852 miles northwest of Rio.
Their motive was not clear, armed robbery and kidnappings for ransom have increased in recent months.
Six days after the kidnapping, police found the kidnappers’ hideout on the outskirts of Goiania. Police exchanged the boy for $42,000, the armored car, a driver and three local television reporters.
After releasing one of the reporters, the kidnappers headed for the Goiania Airport, where authorities refused to exchange the hostages for an airplane.
Police then chased the armored car 500 miles through three states. During one stop at a roadside cafe, one kidnapper stepped out of the armored car and held a pistol to a hostage’s head.
The chase ended early Friday when the kidnappers stopped on a highway near Presidente Prudente and demanded a helicopter in exchange for their three hostages.
An Air Force helicopter was summoned from Brasilia to a nearby airport, but the helicopter pilots refused to fly the couples unless they surrendered their grenades, machine gun and two shotguns. Police then contracted a twin-engine plane.
About 100 heavily armed police continued to surround the armored car and sharpshooters aimed their rifles at the vehicle’s small windows.
The three local television reporters who volunteered to take the boy’s place at the beginning of the drama were identified as Solange Franco, Monica Calassa and Carla Monteiro. The kidnappers later released Monteiro.
The standoff was the third in four months in which criminals took hostages.
In early July, six armed men hijacked a packed passenger bus in the northeastern state of Bahia after an unsuccessful bank robbery attempt.
After being chased 200 miles across the back woods of northeastern Brazil with three hostages, police killed three of the fugitives.
In April, three bank robbers in a remote northeastern town robbed a bank, took five hostages and fled by plane 1,200 miles to the Amazon.