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Brazil police find bodies of men killed in jungle

February 5, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) — The bodies of three men whose disappearance led to a clash between an Amazon tribe and settlers have been found, police said Wednesday.

Maria Pereira Ribeiro, a federal police press officer, said the three were found Monday along a stretch of the Transamazonica Highway that cuts through the Tenharim tribe’s reservation in the state of Amazonas. Ribeiro said relatives identified the three.

Last week, police arrested five Tenharim men on suspicion of kidnapping and killing the outsiders in December. Members of the tribe, which consists of fewer than 1,000 people, deny they killed anyone.

Police have said the Indians apparently attacked the three in retaliation for what they believed was the murder of one of their leaders, Ivan Tenharim, on Dec. 3. Police said at the time he died in a motorcycle accident, but members of the tribe say they want the death investigated further.

On Dec. 25, angry farmers, convinced that Tenharim had kidnapped the three local men nine days earlier, torched several Tenharim huts and the offices of the federal indigenous affairs agency, as well as several of its vehicles and river boats.

More than 100 Tenharim sought refuge inside an army compound and only returned to their reservation six days later when elite police were sent in to protect them.

Indigenous groups in Brazil often clash with farmers and loggers they say encroach on their ancestral lands.

According to the Roman Catholic Church-backed Missionary Indigenous Council, 560 Indians were slain from 2003 to 2012, most of them in fights over land with farmers and ranchers.

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