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TROOPERS SEIZE BRAZIL PRISON, FREE HOSTAGES NO SHOTS WERE FIRED IN TENSE RAID THAT ENDS 3-DAY STANDOFF, RESCUES 650

Brazilian troopers Wednesday seized control of a prison where inmates held about 650 hostages, ending a tense three-day standoff without firing a shot, authorities said.

"The prison is absolutely under control and has been totally retaken," said Joao Benedito Marques, secretary of Sao Paulo state's Penitentiary Department.

Ruy Cesar, police commander in charge of the operation, said not one shot was fired during the 40-minute raid on the Sorocaba maximum-security prison, 50 miles west of Sao Paulo.

Authorities said four police officers and 10 inmates were slightly injured.

Most of the 650 hostages, including 200 children, were relatives of the inmates who were visiting them when the compound was taken over by 20 prisoners Sunday. Fifteen prison guards also were taken captive.

Scores of frightened women and children began filing out of the prison during and after the raid, which followed a tense day of failed negotiations.

Some of them screamed at police, saying they saw the special troops beating inmates and their male relatives. Cesar denied the reports.

While the raid appeared to have ended with no bloodshed, it was a stressful 40 minutes for some of the hostages.

"We saw the inmates lying facedown, and the police were aiming guns at their heads. I thought they were going to kill them, but we didn't hear any shots," said a woman, one of the first hostages to flee the prison during the operation.

Authorities said most of the women and children were being freed. But they said the release of male hostages, including guards, would be delayed while officials sorted out the identities.

Marques said the 20 inmates responsible for the crisis would be transferred later Wednesday to less crowded prisons in the state of Sao Paulo.

The inmates had originally requested armored cars and weapons but agreed late Tuesday to free the hostages early Wednesday in exchange for prison transfers.

But the inmates backed down from their pledge, according to authorities, and demanded a reduction in their sentences as well. At that point, negotiations broke down, and authorities decided to raid the prison before sunset.

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