Local authorities said on Monday that at least five members of a Nicaraguan indigenous group were killed and three others injured in an attack by alleged settlers over the weekend.
Amaru Ruiz, director of the Del Río Foundation, said some of the victims’ bodies were mutilated.
Ruiz said attackers burned 16 houses in the community of Wilu in northern Nicaragua on Saturday. The victims belonged to the Mayangna indigenous group.
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“There was yet another massacre,” said Ruiz, who believes settlers were responsible.
The killings mark the latest in a year-long series of attacks on indigenous people in the area by settlers eager to reclaim their land. Such killings often go unpunished in Nicaragua, where many of the settlers are former soldiers.
The Sauni As Indigenous Regional Government said in a statement that “all the houses in the Wilu community were burned down,” adding that “families were left without shelter, food or clothing.”
The Sauni As rangers unit said the attack was carried out by “70 heavily armed non-indigenous settlers”.
The area where the attack took place, known as the Bosawas nature reserve, is reserved for indigenous groups and the protection of the environment. But the land hungry settlers want to clear the land for farming and farming. The reserve has also been affected by illegal mining and logging.
In January, Nicaraguan authorities arrested 24 settlers after they allegedly attacked an indigenous community over a land dispute.
This was the first large-scale arrest of non-Indigenous settlers after several years of invasions and attacks on territory belonging to the Miskito, Mayangna and other indigenous groups. However, activists said the settlers in that case had actually been arrested by the residents, who handed them over to the police.
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The Mayangna and Miskito communities have been hit by numerous attacks in recent years. Ruiz said at least 28 indigenous leaders and community members had been killed in recent years, ahead of the weekend killings.
Indigenous activists say President Daniel Ortega’s government has not done enough to address problems in the jungle region, which his administration denies.
Activists say many of the settlers who move to the lands are ex-soldiers linked to logging and illegal logging interests.
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The Del Río Foundation says that around 60% of the Mayangnas’ territory has been overrun by around 5,000 settlers since 2015, displacing around 3,000 indigenous inhabitants.