Hands severed in Brazilian indigenous land dispute, says watchdog | News | DW | 02.05.2017
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Brazil

Hands severed in Brazilian indigenous land dispute, says watchdog

A brutal attack on an indigenous tribe in Brazil has left several injured, including a man who had his hands hacked off. Indigenous groups have seen a steady deterioration of protection under the conservative government.

The Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi) on Monday reported that 13 members of the indigenous tribe Gamela sustained serious injuries during an attack by armed men in the northern Brazilian state of Maranhao.

The armed men opened fire on the group of indigenous Brazilians, leaving several of them injured. At least one member of the tribe had his hands hacked off.

The Gamela tribe members came under attack while leaving contested land recently reclaimed from cattle ranchers. Cimi said at least three remain hospitalized, but more may have been injured in the attack and later fled the scene.

"We are afraid that new attacks can happen at any moment," said a Gamela tribe member cited in the report anonymously due to security reasons. "The police are saying that it wasn't an attack, but a confrontation. We can barely defend ourselves. Look at what happened."

According to a government statement, Brazil's Justice Ministry sent federal forces to prevent an escalation of violence and aid state authorities with investigations into the incident involving farmers and "supposed indigenous people."

'Threats and violence'

In Brazil, land disputes involving indigenous groups have frequently turned violent. Nine members of an indigenous tribe in the southern state of Mato Grosso were shot, stabbed and killed in April over a reported land dispute with developers.

Last year, 61 people were killed in violence stemming from land disputes, according to the Brazil-based Pastoral Land Commission of the Catholic Church.

"Rural activists and indigenous leaders involved in conflicts over land continue to face threats and violence in Brazil," Human Rights Watch said in its 2017 World Report.

Activists have alleged a steady decline in state protections under the conservative government of Brazilian President Michel Temer.

ls/cmk (Reuters, dpa)

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