Venezuela gold miners' bodies located

Venezuelan troops in Tumeremo, south-eastern Venezuela, 10 March 2016 Image copyright AFP

Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz says the remains of four out of 28 miners who have been missing since 4 March have been found.

The Venezuelan authorities are expected to give more details of the operation in the next few hours.

Relatives said the 28 men were killed by a criminal gang after finding significant amounts of gold in an illegally-operated mine.

The bodies were dismembered and buried locally, witnesses said.

“We inform the country that we have located the remains of the people who went missing in Tumeremo,” tweeted Ms Ortega.

Bolivar state governor Francisco Rangel had initially dismissed reports that the men had gone missing.

“So far there’s not any indication of any person killed or missing,” said Mr Rangel of the governing socialist PSUV party, three days after the miners disappeared.

He accused opposition politicians of stirring up trouble.

But within a couple of days Venezuelan air force troops were deployed in the remote jungle area, near the border with Guyana, to find out what had happened.

Image copyright AFP

“We won’t rest until we find those responsible for these acts, which in the eyes of all Venezuelans are abominable,” said Venezuela’s Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez last week.

He said they had probably been killed by gangs fighting over control of illegal mining in south-eastern Venezuela.

‘Fight over gold’

The missing miners worked at the Atenas gold mine.

Reports of their disappearance first emerged on 6 March when worried relatives reported that their loved ones had not returned from work. The number of missing miners soon grew from two to 28.

The families blocked a road in Tumeremo linking the region to the Brazilian border to demand an investigation.

Local media quoted eyewitnesses who said the discovery of a significant gold deposit had pitched the miners against members of a gang who wanted to lay their hands on the lucrative find.

The gang members allegedly opened fire on the miners and later forced the survivors to load the bodies onto a lorry.

There are conflicting reports as to where the bodies were taken, with some locals saying they were driven further into the mine and others alleging they were dismembered by chainsaw and disposed of on land belonging to the gang leader.

Opposition lawmaker Americo de Grazia accused Mr Rangel of trying to cover up the alleged massacre.

He compared Mr Rangel to the governor of the Mexican state of Guerrero, where 43 students disappeared in September 2014.

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