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Yanomami men killed by illegal gold miners in northern Brazil, tribe says

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BRASILIA (Reuters) - Two Yanomami men were killed with shot guns by gold rush miners on their reservation in the northern Amazon region, according to a statement released on Saturday by the tribe, the largest in Brazil that is relatively isolated from the outside world.

The Yanomami are imploring Brazil's government to evict more than 20,000 miners illegally prospecting for gold on their land in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 160 and killed five members of the tribe.

The Hutukara Yanomami Association said a group of its people approached a mining camp on June 12 to ask for food in the mountainous Serra de Parima region, a remote corner of the vast reservation on the Venezuelan border in Roraima state.

One young tribesman was killed in a shooting incident as they departed the camp and another died after a chase by armed miners, the statement said.

The tribe's leadership only learned about the June 12 clash four days ago and the circumstances are being investigated by the federal police, who went to the area where the bodies of the men, aged 24 and 20, were still lying in the rainforest.

"They were killed for no reason," said Junior Hekurari, head of the Yanomami health council, Condisi, who accompanied police to the site. "It is so sad to die on your own land."

The government's indigenous affairs agency, Funai, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

A court last week ordered Funai to reopen three abandoned posts for monitoring the reservation and work to remove the gold miners due to the risk that they are spreading coronavirus among tribes with no immunity or access to healthcare.

Indigenous rights organization Survival International called on Brazilian authorities to take urgent and decisive action to remove the illegal gold miners and bring to justice those responsible for the killings.

"If not, we fear there will be will an escalation in violence which could result in further bloodshed, as happened in the gold rush of the 1980s-90s," said Fiona Watson, advocacy director at Survival International.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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