Local authorities said Monday that at least five members of a Nicaraguan indigenous group were killed and three others wounded in an attack by suspected settlers over the weekend.
Amaru Ruiz, director of the Del Río Foundation, said some of the victims’ bodies were mutilated.
Ruiz said the attackers burned 16 houses in the community of Wilu, in northern Nicaragua, on Saturday. The victims belonged to the indigenous Mayangna group.
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“There has been yet another massacre,” said Ruiz, who believes settlers were responsible.
The killings mark the latest chapter in a years-long string of attacks on indigenous people in the area by settlers eager to claim their land. Such killings often go unpunished in Nicaragua, where many of the settlers are former soldiers.
The local indigenous regional government of Sauni As said in a statement that “all of the houses in the Wilu community have been burned,” adding that “families have been left without shelter, food or clothing.”
The Sauni As forest rangers unit said the attack was carried out by “70 heavily armed non-indigenous settlers.”
The area where the attack occurred, known as the Bosawas nature reserve, is set aside for indigenous groups and environmental protection. But land-hungry settlers want to clear the land to ranch and raise crops. The reserve also has been hit by illegal mining and logging.
In January, Nicaraguan authorities arrested 24 settlers after they allegedly attacked an indigenous community as part of a land dispute.
That was the first large-scale arrest of non-indigenous settlers after several years of invasions and attacks in the territory belonging to the Miskito, Mayangna and other indigenous groups. However, activists said the settlers in that instance had actually been detained by residents, who turned them over to police.
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The Mayangna and Miskito communities have been hit by a number of attacks in recent years. Ruiz has said that at least 28 indigenous leaders and community members have been killed in recent years, before the weekend killings.
Indigenous activists say the government of President Daniel Ortega has not done enough to address the problems in the jungled region, something his administration denies.
Activists say many of the settlers moving onto the lands are former soldiers linked to timber and illegal logging interests.
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The Del Río Foundation says about 60% of the Mayangnas’ territory has been invaded by about 5,000 settlers since 2015, displacing some 3,000 indigenous inhabitants.