British journalist’s death confirmed in Brazil, arrest warrant issued; America urges ‘accountability’

Brazilian police on Friday officially identified the remains of British journalist Dom Phillips, who was found buried in the Amazon after going missing on a book research trip. The dire consequences came after Phillips went missing on June 5 and his guide, indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, ignited an international outcry by the United States on Friday for “accountability”.

Phillips was identified through “forensic dentistry combined with forensic anthropology,” Federal Police said in a statement.

It said it was still working on a “full identification” of the remains discovered, which could include those of Pereira, who had received multiple death threats.

Veteran correspondents Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, went missing in a remote part of the rainforest with illegal mining, fishing and logging, as well as drug trafficking.

Ten days later, on Wednesday, a suspect named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira – better known as “Pelado” – took police to the spot where he said he had buried the bodies near the town of Atalia do Norte, Where the pair was sailing by boat. ,

Human remains were found at the site, which arrived in Brasilia on Thursday evening for identification by forensic experts.

Earlier on Friday, police said the investigation suggests the perpetrators “acted alone without an intellectual author or criminal organization behind the crime.”

“Investigation is on and there are indications of more people being involved in the killings,” it said.

Activists have accused President Jair Bolsonaro of murders for allowing commercial exploitation of the Amazon at the expense of the environment and law and order.

For his part, Bolsonaro sought to put the blame at the door of the men themselves for making “reckless” travel in an area where Phillips was “disliked”.

‘A powerful criminal organization’

Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian and other major international newspapers, was working with Pereira on a book on sustainable development in the Amazon.

Pereira, an expert at Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency FUNAI, had received several threats from loggers and miners with his eyes on isolated indigenous lands.

The Uniwaza Association of Indigenous Peoples who participated in the search for the men denied the police’s conclusion that the killers had acted alone.

“These are not just two killers, but an organized group that planned this crime in detail,” Uniwaza said in a statement.

It claimed that the authorities have ignored several complaints about the activities of criminal gangs in the area.

Uniwaza said it filed a report in April that “Pelado” was involved in illegal fishing.

He was previously accused, it claimed, of being “perpetrators of gun attacks against a base of FUNAI in 2018 and 2019,” where Pereira worked for the organization.

Uniwaza said that “a powerful criminal organization[had]tried at all costs to cover its tracks during the investigation” of the double murder.

Experts say that illegal fishing of endangered species in the Jawari Valley is controlled by drug smugglers who use the sale of fish for drug money laundering.

Police said Friday night they had issued an arrest warrant for a man identified as Jefferson da Silva Lima. It is not known how he is related to the matter.

Heavy-armed soldiers participating in a search for the two men began leaving Atalia do Norte on Friday.

Paulo Marubo, a Uniwaza coordinator, said the people there who helped with the search and reported illegal activity now fear for their lives.

“We will continue to live here, and the state will not provide any security to the people,” Marubo said.

‘Cruel act of violence’

The United States on Friday urged “accountability and justice” for the killings.

State Department spokesman Ned Price offered condolences to the families of the men, saying they were “killed to support the preservation of the rainforest and native people there.”

In neighboring Peru, an estimated 100 indigenous people in traditional dress called for protection of natural resources at their homeland in Lima on Friday and mourned the deaths of Phillips and Pereira.

Marching up to the Justice Ministry, the group raised the slogan, “The blood that has been shed will never be forgotten.” At the head of the procession, people carried a banner that read “Protect Land, Water and Life”.

On Thursday, the United Nations condemned “brutal acts of violence” in Brazil.

UN human rights spokeswoman Raveena Shamdasani said attacks and threats against activists and indigenous people in Brazil were “frequent” and urged the government to step up security.

Investigation is on to find out the reasons for the crime.

Police have not been able to locate the boat in which Phillips and Pereira were traveling when they were last seen.

Investigators said the blood found in Oliveira’s boat was that of a man, but not that of Phillips.

The analysis also revealed that the entrails found in the river during the search and linked to the men by Bolsonaro, according to police, contained “no human DNA”.

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