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Armed miners invade Amazon village in Brazil after killing indigenous leader

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Several dozen heavily armed miners dressed in military fatigues invaded an indigenous village in remote northern Brazil this week and fatally stabbed at least one of the community's leaders, authorities have said.
The killing comes as miners and loggers are making increasingly bold and defiant incursions into protected areas, including indigenous territories, with the explicit encouragement of Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, The New York Times reported.
Bolsonaro has said that the indigenous communities are in control of vast territories that should be opened up to industries to make them profitable.
Indigenous territories and communities have come under regular threats by miners and loggers due to land invasions that are on a rise across the South American country in recent months. Yet assassinations of indigenous leaders are a rare case.
Leaders of the Wajapi indigenous community made urgent pleas to the federal government on Saturday, warning that the conflict between the miners and members of their community who live in the remote villages in the northern state of Amapa risked turning into a blood bath.
"They are armed with rifles and other weapons," Jawaruwa Waiapi, a leader of the community, was quoted as saying in a voice message sent to one of the state's senators, referring to the miners.
"We are in danger. You need to send the army to stop them," he urged
However, the details over the killing are yet to be divulged.
Rodolfe Rodrigues, the senator, said on Saturday night (local time) that residents of the village that had been invaded had fled. Citing local accounts, he said there was a concern in the area that men from the tribe would return to the village to try to reclaim it.
"There is a significant risk that the conflict will escalate in the coming hours," Rodrigues said in a phone interview.
"The Indians are going to retaliate," he warned.
Rodrigues, who belongs to an opposition party, said Bolsonaro's views on indigenous territories and the rights of native communities had put the descendants of Brazil's original inhabitants in mortal danger.
"The president is responsible for this death," he said.
A representative for the president declined to comment on Saturday night.
Rodrigues identified the slain indigenous leader as Emyra Wajapi. He said the miners tossed his body in a river after stabbing him to death.
On Saturday night, an elite police force was en route to the area. The National Indian Foundation, a federal agency that was created to protect indigenous rights, said on Saturday that its personnel in the area were trying to ascertain the facts surrounding the killing.
The Wajapi, who have lived for centuries in the area that straddles northern Brazil and French Guiana, lived in isolation until the 1970s, when the Brazilian government built a road that made their areas accessible to miners and other outsiders.
Their territory was designated a protected area in 1996 as part of the process established by Brazil's 1988 Constitution. That charter, which was adopted after a 21-year period of military rule, set out to make amends for the brutality indigenous communities had endured since Europeans arrived on the continent in the 1400s.

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First Published: Jul 29 2019 | 4:22 AM IST

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