Israelis Jailed in Brazil Fear Being Taken Hostage by Criminals

Foreign convicts say they may be used as bargaining cards in prison riots that have claimed 170 lives.

Israeli nationals currently jailed in Brazil expressed fear Saturday that they were at risk of being taken hostage by local criminals as part of the massive prisoner riots underway in Sao Paulo, according to conversations with a number of imprisoned Israelis.

At least 170 people have been killed in riots over the course of the past week following Brazilian authorities' decision to incarcerate a senior mob figure in solitary confinement. Organized crime groups initiated violent clashes with police, which spiraled out of control and into the streets of Sao Paulo.

Despite police reports over the weekend indicating a significant drop in the level of violence, Sao Paulo residents remain fearful of renewed disorder.

"It's very scary," an Israeli prioner held in a Sau Paulo jail said over the phone. "We're foreigners, which means we could turn into their bargaining cards."