(Brasilia) At least six towns in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, in northeastern Brazil, were hit overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday by a series of attacks perpetrated by gangs who have been spreading terror since two days, including setting fire to vehicles or shooting at public buildings, authorities said.

The previous night (Monday to Tuesday), about twenty towns in this poor state of around 3.5 million inhabitants had already been affected by this wave of violence which left two people dead.

Despite a reinforcement of the security device on Tuesday, the attacks continued last night, in particular in Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte.

Images on social media and local media show buses, trucks and cars in flames, as well as police stations or other public buildings riddled with bullets.

Minister of Justice and Public Security Flavio Dino announced on Twitter on Wednesday the dispatch of “220 police officers to assist the security forces of this state”, and stressed that other reinforcements could be deployed. if necessary.

According to the G1 news site citing police sources, two individuals died in exchanges of fire with the police, two others were injured and 30 were arrested.

According to local authorities, these attacks are reprisals from criminal groups after a tightening of surveillance in the prisons of Rio Grande do Norte. A seizure of drugs and weapons was also made during a recent police operation.

“It’s a reaction of organized crime to the firm measures adopted in prisons to deal with crime and violence,” Governor Fatima Bezerra said in an interview with CNN Brazil.

A federal prison violence prevention agency reports particularly “inhumane and degrading” conditions in prisons in Rio Grande do Norte, including cases of torture and spoiled food, according to G1.

“The state has a duty to guarantee the rights of detainees, but in the face of attacks like the ones taking place right now, these rights will be increasingly reduced,” warned Francisco Canindé de Araujo, Secretary of Security of the Rio Grande do Norte, during an interview at the Uol site.

In Brazil, some criminal groups that operate in drug trafficking are commanded by their leaders from prisons.

Rebellions or clashes between members of rival factions have already left dozens dead in Brazilian prisons.