Brazilian police: The remains of a British journalist have been found

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RIO DE JANEIRO – Federal police said Friday that human remains found in the remote Brazilian Amazon have been identified as belonging to British journalist Dom Phillips, who went missing almost two weeks ago along with a Brazilian indigenous expert in a case that caught the attention of the world.

Additional remains found at the site near the town of Atalaya do Norte have not yet been identified, but are expected to belong to local expert Bruno Pereira, 41. The couple was last seen on June 5th on their boat on the Itaquai River near the entrance. in the local area of ​​the Havari Valley, which borders Peru and Colombia.

“Confirmation (of the remains of Phillips) was made on the basis of dental examinations and anthropological forensics,” a statement from the federal police said. “We are currently working to fully identify the remains so that we can determine the cause of death, as well as the dynamics of the crime and the hiding of the bodies.”

The wreckage was discovered Wednesday after fisherman Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, nicknamed Pelado, admitted to killing Phillips and Pereira, 57, and led police to where the wreckage was found. He told police he used a firearm to commit the crime.

Police also arrested Pelado’s brother, fisherman Osey da Costa de Oliveira.

The remains had arrived in the Brazilian capital on Thursday to house detectives.

The area where Phillips and Pereira went missing has witnessed violent clashes between fishermen, poachers and government agents.

Federal police said others may have been involved in the crime, but that organized crime groups did not appear to be involved.

UNIVAJA, the local indigenous association for which Pereira works, criticized this conclusion. A statement said the investigation did not look into the existence of a criminal organization funding illegal fishing and poaching in the local Javari Valley.

“That is why Bruno Pereira became one of the main targets of this criminal group, as well as other members of UNIVAJA who received death threats,” the statement said.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has often criticized indigenous journalists and experts, has drawn criticism that the government did not get involved quickly enough. Earlier, he criticized Phillips in an interview, saying without evidence that locals in the area where he disappeared did not like him and that he should have been more careful in the region.

His main opponent in the October election, former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, said in a statement that the killings “are directly linked to the abolition of indigenous public protection policies.” “This is also related to the incitement of violence by the current administration,” said da Silva, who is leading opinion polls.

Efforts to find the couple began with the region’s indigenous people.

Locals who were with Pereira and Phillips say Pelado brandished a rifle against them the day before the couple disappeared.

Official search teams have focused their efforts on a site in the Itaquai River where a tarpaulin was found from a boat used by the missing men. Authorities began patrolling the area and found a backpack, laptop and other personal belongings submerged under water on Sunday.

Authorities say the main police investigation into the disappearances has identified an international network that pays poor fishermen to fish illegally in the Havari Valley Reserve, Brazil’s second-largest local area.

Pereira, who previously headed the local bureau of the Federal Indigenous Agency, known as FUNAI, is involved in several operations against illegal fishing. In such operations, fishing gear is generally seized or destroyed, and fishermen are fined and detained for a short time. Only indigenous peoples can legally fish in their territories.

While some police officers, the mayor and others in the region have linked the disappearances to the “fish mafia”, federal police do not rule out other lines of investigation, such as drug trafficking.

The case has put a global magnifying glass on violence in the Amazon.

Earlier on Friday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Phillips and Pereira were “killed to support the conservation of tropical forests and indigenous peoples there.”

“We call for accountability and fairness – we must step up our collective efforts to protect environmentalists and journalists,” Price said.

Protests calling for justice for Philips and Pereira are due to take place in several Brazilian cities over the weekend.

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