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Brazilian miners reportedly murder Amazonian tribal leader during land invasion

Police have been deployed to the area following the killing last week.

Image: Shutterstock/Gustavo Frazao

POLICE IN BRAZIL have been deployed to a remote Amazonian village in the north of the country after reports it has been overrun by armed miners following the murder of an indigenous leader.

Last Monday, a leader of the indigenous Waiapi tribe was killed before his body was found in a river the next day, the attorney general’s office (AGO) in the state of Amapa said in a statement.

While none of the Waiapi witnessed the killing, a council of village chiefs said that a search of the area found “trails and other signs that the death was caused by non-indigenous people”.

BBC quotes other officials who say that the man was stabbed to death after heavily armed gold miners invaded the indigenous reserve and overran the village Yvytoto.

On Friday, a group of “armed non-indigenous” people overran the nearby village of Yvytoto, prompting residents to flee, the council said.

Local media called them “garimpeiros” – a term for armed miners active in the Amazon – and said they numbered 50 people.

After reports of the attacks emerged on Saturday, members of the federal police and a military police special forces unit were dispatched to the area, the AGO said, arriving in the village some 300km from the state capital Macapa on Sunday.

The indigenous affairs agency FUNAI said its officers were also on the ground monitoring the police investigation.

“Law enforcement officials have reported that no hypothesis for the murder has been ruled out, nor can they can say at this time who carried out the crime,” the AGO said, as it announced the establishment of a crisis management group to oversee the investigation.

“The alleged presence of garimpeiros and other groups in the region is being investigated.”

Rich in gold, manganese, iron and copper, the Waiapi’s territory is deep inside the Amazon, making communication difficult, police said.

The Waiapi council said some of the tribe’s fighters had stationed themselves near the village occupied by the miners.

“The situation is urgent,” said Randolfe Rodrigues, an opposition senator from Amapa, on his official Facebook page.

The Brazilian Bar Association issued a statement calling on the government to protect the Waiapi’s land and ensure perpetrators of criminal offenses were “punished”.

The tribe’s territory is one of hundreds that Brazil’s government demarcated in the 1980s for the exclusive use of its 800,000 indigenous inhabitants. Access by outsiders is strictly regulated.

The violence in the area comes as Brazil’s indigenous people face growing pressures from miners, ranchers and loggers under President Jair Bolsonaro, who called for the exploitation of minerals in the Amazon rainforest on Saturday.

With reporting from - © AFP 2019.

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