Brazil Amazon: Sixth murder since May amid land rows

Aerial picture taken on 29 November 2009 Small-scale farmers are often in conflict with illegal loggers in the Amazon

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A rural worker has been shot dead in Brazil's Amazon - the sixth murder in a month in the region, amid conflicts over land and logging.

The body of Obede Loyla Souza was found in dense forest close to his home in the northern state of Para.

The 31-year-old had argued with illegal loggers in the area, the Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission said.

Violence in the Amazon prompted the Brazilian government last month to offer more protection for activists.

Police believe Mr Souza was killed last week, but news of his death was only confirmed on Tuesday.

He was found close to his home in a settlement for landless rural workers near the town of Pacaja.

'Marked man'

The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) said Mr Souza had received death threats after a run-in with loggers, who were reportedly cutting down trees illegally.

"There is in this region a really dangerous group of loggers," Hilario Lopes Costa from the CPT told the Associated Press.

"He had a fight with one of them over the cutting of these trees and he was a marked man from then on."

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Local residents told the CPT they had seen four people in a pick-up truck drive to the camp where Mr Souza lived.

Forensic tests showed he was killed by a shot to the head.

Since May, there have been six murders in the states of Para and Rondonia.

Police say not all were linked to land disputes.

However, some of those targeted had been threatened.

Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do EspIrito Santo da Silva, were found murdered on a nature reserve near Maraba in Para state, where they had been working for the past 24 years.

According to family and friends, the couple had received numerous threats in the past two years for their environmental activism.

Their deaths were followed days later by the killing of rural leader Adelino Ramos in Porto Velho, capital of Rondonia.

The government said it would increase protection for those activists considered most at risk and boost co-operation with state governments to tackle the violence.

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