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Violence Disrupts Civilian Activity in Natal

08/02/2016 - 10h24

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RENATA MOURA
FOLHA CONTRIBUTOR, FROM NATAL

After a wave of attacks last Friday (29) in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, university classes and lectures were cancelled and many workers were left stranded without public transport this Monday (1).

At least 69 incidents were reported in 23 cities across the state. This included lootings, arson, attempted arson and shootings in public spaces.

Since the beginning of the attacks, 65 people have been arrested for vandalism in the metropolitan region of the city of Natal and Rio Grande do Norte's in rural areas.

Buses and vans were off the roads during part of the weekend. This Monday, 70% of vehicles were in action, but many were called in earlier than usual.

The University Potiguar postponed students' return to classes until Thursday (4). In the UFRN (Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte), buildings were empty. Night classes finished at 8.15 p.m. Private colleges also suspended classes.

Voice messages with threatening content circulated on social media. Fear spread among inhabitants of rural areas as many messages apparently pinpointed targets of future attacks.

The attacks were organised by prisoners, behind bars in the state's penitentiaries, according to the State Secretary for Justice, Wallber Virgolino.

"We identified the participation of 25 prisoners, the majority of these from the state penitentiary of Parnamirim," said the Secretary. In the penitentiary, mobile phone signal blocks were installed last week. It is believed mobile phone communication is vital for the organisation of these attacks.

The Minister of Defence said that roughly 1,200 navy and army officers were on duty in the metropolitan capital of the region. The operation began this Monday and will continue until August 16.

Translated by GILLIAN SOPHIE HARRIS

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