BRASILIA (dpa) – After days of searching for a missing British journalist and Indigenous expert who also disappeared in the Brazilian rainforest, there are increasing indications of violence.
The remains, discovered in the Amazon region, have been handed over to Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, the federal police said on Saturday.
The men disappeared while traveling to the Javari Valley in western Brazil. Federal police said both were shot. Phillips was hit in the chest and stomach with hunting ammunition, and Pereira was hit in the torso and head.
Three suspects have been arrested so far. One of them admitted involvement in the killing of the two men and led the police to find human remains. According to the first results of the investigation, it is possible that the alleged killers acted on their own. “Investigations indicate that the perpetrators acted alone and that there is no agent or criminal organization behind the crime,” the Federal Police said.
The motive behind the alleged murder was unclear at first
“We are deeply saddened to confirm the deaths of Dom and Bruno,” the Phillips family said in a joint statement in the United Kingdom. “We are grateful to everyone involved in the research, especially the indigenous groups who have been searching ceaselessly for evidence of the attack.”
Phillips lived in Brazil for a long time and was married to a Brazilian woman. As a freelance journalist, he has written for “The Guardian” and “The Financial Times” as well as for the American newspapers “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times”.
Recently, he did research for a book on the protection of the Amazon, strong economic interests in its exploitation, and various development models. The motive behind the alleged killing was initially unclear. Among other things, investigators check whether the crime is related to poaching or drug trafficking.
The Indigenous Assembly of the Javari Valley lamented the “inestimable loss” of “two partners”. Above all, it was the indigenous people of the area who drove the search for missing persons from the start. On the other hand, right-wing populist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro initially blamed men. He said Phillips was “looked down on badly in the area” and should have “taken more care of himself”.
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Phillips and Pereira did not arrive by boat in the city of Atalaia do Norte on June 5 as planned, according to a regional indigenous organization. Pereira had previously told the police that he had been threatened several times. He had registered illegal activities in the Javari Valley to the authorities.
Indigenous association Apib said it has repeatedly alerted authorities to the activities of criminal groups in the area. “The brutality of the crime shows that Pereira and Phillips blocked the path of a powerful criminal organization that desperately needed to cover its tracks,” Aviv said in a statement.
With an area slightly larger than Austria, the region is one of the largest indigenous areas in Brazil. Many indigenous people live in seclusion there. The border region with Peru and Colombia in particular suffers from conflicts due to illegal gold mining, deforestation, illegal hunting and fishing, as well as drug smuggling. According to the NGO Global Witness, Brazil was the fourth deadliest country for environmentalists in 2020, with 20 conservationists and an environmental activist killed there.
“The deaths of Dom and Bruno are a tragic reminder of how deadly the struggle for land rights and indigenous communities is, especially in Brazil, which is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for defenders of land and the environment,” the statement read. A global witness. “You have been heroic in your work to protect the Amazon, its inhabitants and the lungs of our planet. The Brazilian authorities must investigate their deaths and bring justice to their families.”
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