- The 59-year-old leader of the Guaviry tribe is killed, a Brazilian ministry says
- About 40 gunmen attacked his tribe's camp near the Paraguayan border
- Most of his tribe's 60 members fled into the woods, complicating the probe
- "We will not leave our ancestral land," a tribesman says, according to a nonprofit
About 40 gunmen attacked an indigenous tribe in southwestern Brazil on Friday morning, executing and dragging away its chief, a government ministry said.
Nisio Gomes, the 59-year-old leader of the Guaviry tribe, was shot in the head and then had his body taken away by the attackers, the Ministerio Publico Federal said on its website.
Law enforcement arrived at that conclusion after detecting human blood where the natives said that the chief had been fatally shot. The state-run Agencia Brasil news agency reported that the attackers shielded their identities.
Members of the tribe reported that several others are missing -- including a woman and a child -- though the ministry noted that that information could not be confirmed. The investigation is complicated by the fact that all but 10 of this tribe's approximately 60 members had fled into the nearby forest following the attack.
Survival International, a non-governmental organization that works with indigenous groups, said the tribe members have been attacked since returning to their ancestral land, near the Paraguayan border, earlier this month after being evicted by cattle ranchers. They said that gunmen had been circling their camp since Wednesday.
"We'll stay (in) the camp," one tribe member defiantly said, according to Survival International. "We'll all die here. We will not leave our ancestral land."
One of Gomes's sons was sent to the Instituto Medico Legal in Ponta Pora, one of the closest cities to the attack, so experts could conduct a forensic examination, the government ministry said. They are checking whether he was hit by rubber bullets similar to those used in an August 23 attack, according to the ministry.
There are about 70,000 indigenous people in Brazil, with conflicts rising in recent years as part of struggles for land. The homicide rate, 100 per 100,000 inhabitants, is particularly high among members of what the Ministerio Publico Federal described as the guarani-kaiowa ethnicity.