Page last updated at 00:35 GMT, Friday, 20 February 2009

British tourists robbed in Brazil

By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro
The annual Rio de Janeiro carnival is about to begin

British tourists were among a group who were held hostage for several hours during a robbery at a hostel in Brazil.

The raid took place at the SambaVilla hostel in the Lapa area of Rio de Janeiro and was the second hostel in the city to be held up in a week.

This robbery was carried out by seven men with hand grenades, who held about 34 people hostage for several hours.

A hostel in Copacabana was targeted on Wednesday, when 13 tourists were robbed by four armed men.

The robberies happened just as celebrations are about to get under way for the city's world famous carnival.

In the incident, involving British students, a grenade was used to frighten some of the victims into handing over money and belongings.

Those robbed of their possessions also included tourists from Argentina and the United States.

The police say they have increased patrols in areas where hostels are located and will do whatever it takes to ensure that tourists are protected.

In a separate incident this week a 14-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet at a carnival rehearsal.

It was pretty freaky but I didn't feel they were properly going to hurt people though they did knock people around a bit
Bertie Herrtage

The latest robbery happened in the early hours of the morning at the SambaVilla hostel, which is in an area famous for its bars and night life.

At least six men armed with knives, a gun and a grenade were said to have been involved.

Rollo Skinner, 18, from Dorset, told the BBC he had been woken by men hitting him with their hands about the face.

Taped up

They had waved guns around and demanded money, and ordered a friend to tie him up with tape.

"I didn't see a grenade but there was a guy in the room next to us, who was woken up by a grenade in his face and they said 'boom boom' to him, and asked him to give his camera, iPod money etc. It was pretty scary."

His friend, Bertie Herrtage, 18, from Somerset said he woke up to see Rollo being slapped around as they tried to get money from him.

"I just thought they were just guys off the street, but then they had guns. They asked me to tie up my friend Rollo with tape, and then they tied me up with tape.

"We stood in the corridor for a bit looking at our feet whilst they rounded everyone else up, and then we all got filed into an empty dorm, and we were locked in there. Everyone was tied up.

"We were there for about an hour and a half, and then they went through our rooms with knives cutting open all the bags, breaking off all the locks, taking all the cameras, all the phones, iPods and all the money. But they left us with our passports."

"It was pretty freaky but I didn't feel they were properly going to hurt people though they did knock people around a bit."

Similar robbery

The students realised after a while that the robbers had gone, and freed themselves.

It was the second time that a youth hostel has been robbed in Rio this week, but although there were similarities between the two crimes, police do not believe they were connected.

On Wednesday, 13 tourists, the majority of them from Israel, were robbed at a hostel in the Copacabana area.

On that occasion the gang was reported to have been carrying a gun and two grenades.

Detectives say they have already identified suspects in both cases, and say they believe those behind the robbery in Copacabana were young middle-class men.

The Mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, conceded that the robberies had been bad for the image of the city but said he was confident the police were going to pursue those responsible to ensure they were punished.

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