Two assailants opened fire inside a school near Sao Paulo on Wednesday, killing eight people including four children before turning their weapons on themselves, authorities said.
Military police Colonel Marcelo Sales said two assailants burst into the school grounds in the early morning, armed with a .38 caliber revolver and a “medieval weapon that looked like a bow and arrows.”
After shooting at students in the yard, the killers headed to the language center where several pupils were hiding and “committed suicide in a corridor,” Sales said.
“Eight people died at the scene, including the two assailants,” a state military police spokesman said. “Two injured people died after being taken to hospital.”
Around 15 others were injured in the shooting, which took place at the Raul Brasil public school in Suzano, on the outskirts of Sao Paulo in southeast Brazil.
Sao Paulo State Governor Joao Doria said four children and two members of staff were among the dead.
“It’s saddest thing I’ve ever seen,” Doria added.
He said it was not yet known whether the assailants were former pupils at the school.
Worried family members congregated outside alongside firefighters and security services, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
“I found out when my daughter called me and said: Mummy, come quickly, there are injured people, dead people,” said the mother of one pupil, who gave her name only as Rosa.
– ‘Covered by a hood’ –
The attack took place at around 9:30 am (1230 GMT) during a recess period for some students, authorities said.
Sales, of the military police, said the two attackers “shot at the owner of a car wash,” who is now receiving hospital treatment, before entering the school.
Website UO1 said the two killers, “probably teenagers, entered the school shooting with their heads covered by a hood.”
Another website, G1, published a grainy video purportedly taken inside the school in which the screams of terrified pupils can be heard as they come across dead classmates.
Globonews showed television pictures of pupils fleeing the scene after escaping over a wall.
Education Minister Ricardo Velez published a statement offering “solidarity with the parents, families and staff at the school in this moment of shock, mourning and pain.”
It’s not the first mass school shooting in Brazil’s history.
In April 2011, a former pupil killed a dozen school children and injured many more before turning his gun on himself at a school in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil is one of the most violent countries in the world with 64,000 murders in 2017, a rate of almost 31 per 100,000 inhabitants — that’s three times higher than the level the United Nations classifies as endemic violence.
Far right President Jair Bolsonaro controversially passed a law relaxing the rules on carrying weapons soon after assuming power in January, delivering on a campaign promise.