Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil police arrest Amazon tribesmen for murder

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Police in Brazil's Amazon region have arrested five indigenous members of the Tenharim tribe accused of killing three contractors who have been missing since mid-December.

The tribe denies any involvement in the disappearance of the three men.

Local groups accused tribe members of killing the three government workers in retaliation for the death of an indigenous leader.

The incident led to riots in the nearby city of Humaita.

Tension in the area began when indigenous leader Ivan Tenharim was run over by a car in the tribe's reserve on 3 December.

Other indigenous leaders accused local townspeople of killing him deliberately.

There is anger among residents of Humaita and nearby towns over the indigenous practice of setting up roadblocks and demanding money from drivers going through their lands.

On 16 December, the three contractors disappeared in the area. The men were last seen on a road that crossed the tribe's indigenous reserve.

They were named as Luciano Ferreira Freire, Stef Pinheiro and Aldeney Ribeiro Salvador, who were working for the federal government-owned electricity company, Eletrobras.

Nine days later, groups of townsmen attacked government buildings and set cars alight in Humaita demanding government action.

Hundreds of Tenharim tribe members then sought refuge at a local military barracks.

On December 28, more than 200 policemen were deployed in the reserve - some 600km (370 miles) south-west of the state capital, Manaus - to begin a search for the missing men.

The police presence may have reassured the indigenous people that it was safe to return.

This morning, federal police arrived at the reserve and arrested the five indigenous men, who have not been named.

Clashes between indigenous groups and non-indigenous locals are not uncommon in Brazil as they are often in conflict over land, logging and mining rights.

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