Three arrested in Brazil over French soldiers' deaths in Guiana
The main suspect in the killing of two French soldiers in French Guiana has been arrested in northern Brazil. He and several accomplices were arrested in a large-scale operation launched by French authorities after the soldiers were killed at the end of June.
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira welcomed the news that Manoel Ferreira Moura was in custody.
In a statement released Saturday, she said Friday’s arrests were the result of cooperation between French and Brazilian authorities.
Taubira took a particular interest in the deaths of the two soldiers, as she herself is from Guiana, a French department in South America.
Some 120,000 French gendarmes were involved in a large-scale manhunt for Moura and his accomplices.
Known as "Manoelzinho", Moura is believed to be the leader of a gang of illegal gold panners involved in a shootout with French soldiers at the end of June in Guiana’s Dorlin region.
At the end of June about 30 gendarmes and soldiers went into the remote gold mining region after a helicopter providing security for a legal mining operation was shot at.
They came under fire and two of the soldiers were killed.
Authorities have been trying to stamp out illegal gold mining in Guiana, which causes serious ecological damage, with mercury, used in the process, dumped into rivers.
The fight has sometimes turned deadly. In January at least five people were killed in a shootout between rival gangs, just hours head of a visit to Guiana by then-president Nicolas Sarkozy.