SAO PAULO (AFP) – Nine men and a woman were killed Wednesday during a police operation in northeastern Brazil that activists say was linked to a long-running conflict over land rights in the country.
Police said they were serving warrants linked to unrelated criminal investigations when they came under gunfire at the Santa Lucia farming estate, some 860 kilometers (530 miles) from Belem, capital of Para state.
However, the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) — which is connected to the Roman Catholic church and acts on behalf of the rural poor — said police were carrying out “property re-integration” ordered by a municipal judge in the city of Redencion.
No officers were injured in the shooting, according to authorities, who said said autopsies were underway on those killed.
The violence recalled the massacre of nine people during a land dispute in a remote part of western Brazil that shook the country last month.
The victims in that violence, including an Evangelical pastor, reportedly were knifed and shot to death.
The CPT said at the time that the killings were part of a pattern of brutal pressure from rich landowners to displace small-scale farmers from lucrative territories.
Sixty-one people were killed in land conflicts in Brazil last year, the highest number since 2003, according to the CPT s latest annual report.