Bolsonaro: Human remains found during searches for missing persons

(Update 2: Adds Bolsonaro’s comments)

Recife, Brazil, Jun 13 (EFE).- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday confirmed that “human remains” were found in the area in the Amazon where a British journalist and his indigenous guide disappeared, his remarks coming amid growing public confusion over the whereabouts of the pair.

The president said that there are “indications” that illegal groups operating in Amazonia committed “evil” acts against journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous guide Bruno Araujo, who disappeared a week ago in the Javari Valley, one of the most remote jungle regions in Brazil.

“The indications lead one to believe that (the illegal groups) committed some evil deed against them. Human remains were found floating in the river and they have already been sent to Brasilia for DNA testing,” said Bolsonaro in an interview with Radio CBN Recife, the regional station for the Globo news network.

“And, regarding the time, it’s already been eight, nine days. It will be very difficult to find them alive. I ask God that they may be found alive, but the indications lead to the opposite conclusion at the moment,” Bolsonaro said without mentioning the report by Phillips’ wife on Monday morning about the finding of two bodies in the region.

According to the award-winning environmental reporter Andrew Trigueiro, with the Globo television network and a personal friend of Alessandra Sampaio, Phillips’ wife, the British Embassy and the Federal Police informed Sampaio on Monday about the finding of two bodies.

Accoding to the information provided by Sampaio, the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition but would be sent to Manaus, the regional capital, or to Brasilia for forensic examinations to determine their identities.

Nevertheless, the Crisis Management Committee, created by the authorities to coordinate the search for the missing men, along with indigenous organizations participating in the search, refuted the report.

There has been no information “that has been released about having found the bodies of Mr. Bruno Pereira and Mr. Dom Phillips,” said the Committee, which is being coordinated by the Federal Police and is comprised of army, navy and regional Public Safety Secretariat personnel, as well as police.

“In accord with what was already released, biological materials were found that are being analyzed and personal belongings of the missing. When (the persons or the bodies) are found, the family and the communications media will immediately be informed,” the statement said.

Phillips, a contributor to The Guardian newspaper, and Pereira disappeared on June 5, in the Javari Valley, a remote region in the Brazilian Amazon near the borders with Peru and Colombia, where they were conducting an investigation on threats against indigenous communities in the area.

Firefighters on Sunday found a backpack with a laptop and other personal items in the area where officials are searching for the missing pair.

According to the information provided by the Fire Brigade, the backpack – which also contained books and some clothes – belongs to one of the missing people, representatives of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (Univaja) said.

The bag, which will be sent to investigators for analysis, was found tied to a tree in a flooded area on a river bank, near the home of Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, better known as “Pelado,” the only suspect in the disappearances.

He was arrested on Friday after authorities found traces of blood on one of his boats.

EFE wgm/ass/cpy/bp

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