Miners 'mutilated' in Brazilian massacre

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The Independent US

Brazilian police began the grim task of recovering the mangled corpses of 26 diamond prospectors yesterday, allegedly massacred by Indians on a reserve in the remote north-west of the country.

Brazilian police began the grim task of recovering the mangled corpses of 26 diamond prospectors yesterday, allegedly massacred by Indians on a reserve in the remote north-west of the country.

They were allegedly killed in a pitched battle between the prospectors, who had come to mine diamonds illegally on Indian land, and Cinta Larga Indians in the dense jungle of the Roosevelt reserve in Rondonia state, an area believed to be South America's richest diamond region.

"Many of the bodies have been partially eaten by wild animals and all are decomposed after more than 10 days in the jungle," said Roberto Lustosa, at the Federal Indian Bureau.

A spokesman for the National Indian Foundation said the Indians retaliated with small calibre rifles, arrows, spears and daggers when heavily armed prospectors shot at them.

But an official from the Union of Rondonia State Prospectors said 50 heavily armed Indians had surrounded some 200 unarmed miners and opened fire on them while they worked.

"According to the union register, we believe 64 people have been killed ... and another 15 who are not part of the union. It was a massacre," the union spokesman said.

Press reports said the victims, whose bodies were spread over an area with a 1km radius, had been clubbed to death and then hacked to pieces, while others said they were beheaded.

Last week's bloody clash is believed to be the worst in a series of battles between Indians and the hundreds of miners drawn to the protected reservation by stories of big diamond finds.

Demand from South Africa and Belgium is said to be fuelling the illegal trade.

The Roosevelt reserve has long been a point of conflict between Indians and miners, who are periodically pushed off the reserve by authorities, only to move back again. Authorities have not been able to drive the miners off for good because of the reserve's size and the thick, impenetrable jungle.

However, Indians have been known to allow miners on to their land for a fee and, last month, police arrested 14 people, including an Indian leader, from an alleged diamond smuggling ring accused of mining stones in the reserve.

Police are searching for more bodies from the clash on the 2.1 million hectare reserve.

The worst previous confrontation between miners and Indians took place in 1993 when gold miners killed 16 Yanomami Indians, including women and children.

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