Friday, 22 Sep 2023

Brazils battle to reclaim Yanomami lands from illegal miners turns deadly

Brazils battle to reclaim Yanomami lands from illegal miners turns deadly


Brazils battle to reclaim Yanomami lands from illegal miners turns deadly

Brazil's battle to reclaim its largest Indigenous territory from tens of thousands of illegal miners has taken a deadly turn after at least five people were reportedly killed during 36 hours of violence in the Amazon's sprawling Yanomami territory.

The bloodshed began on Saturday afternoon when masked illegal miners allegedly launched an attack on a Yanomami village called Uxiu.

The Yanomami leader, Júnior Hekurari, said he had received reports that between 15 and 20 heavily armed miners had arrived by boat and opened fire on locals. Three Yanomami men - aged 36, 31 and 24 - were shot. The oldest, an Indigenous health worker named as Ilson Xiriana, died early after being shot in the head.

"This barbarity will not go unanswered," Brazil's human rights minister, Silvio Almeida, tweeted as the government sent a high-level delegation of ministers and police chiefs to the region in response.

On Sunday, there was further violence in another part of the Portugal-sized Yanomami enclave in which at least four miners were killed as special forces members of the environmental protection group Ibama and the federal highway police (PRF) - the two groups leading the charge against illegal miners - raided an illegal cassiterite and gold field called "Garimpo do Ouro Mil". Their arrival prompted a series of gun battles as gunmen - some wearing camouflage fatigues - challenged the government forces.

In a statement, the PRF said its officers were attacked by heavily armed gunmen as their helicopters attempted to land. "Police returned fire and hit the four shooters, who succumbed to their injuries," added the statement, which said police had recovered "an arsenal" including one assault rifle, three pistols, seven shotguns and two laser sights.

The environment ministry said there were suspicions the mine was run by a criminal organization, understood to be the First Capital Command (PCC) - a São Paulo-born prison gang that has become one of South America's most powerful mafia groups.

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