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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 November, 2004, 16:34 GMT
Five killed in Brazil land clash
By Steve Kingstone
BBC News, Sao Paulo

MST occupation of land [archive photo]
Landless workers occupation of land has caused conflict
Five rural workers have been shot dead and 14 others injured in Brazil as part of a dispute over land.

They were members of a landless workers group that occupies agricultural land it says is not being used.

The Brazilian government has called Saturday's attack, in the state of Minas Gerais, a barbarity.

Conflict over land is nothing new but this is the most violent incident since President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took power nearly two years ago.

It seems that on Saturday afternoon a mini bus pulled up at the settlement near the town of Felizburgo.

Hooded gunmen got out and opened fire on men, women and children.

Five people died and, of the others taken to hospital, two are said to be seriously injured.


The victims were part of Brazil's Landless Workers' Movement (MST).

In what has become a familiar pattern, they occupied the 2,500-hectare site in 2002.

They say the land belongs to the state government and had fallen into disuse.

But inevitably such occupations create tensions with farmers, who often have rival claims to the land and occasionally hire gunmen to clear occupied areas.

In this case the MST has already accused a landowner in a neighbouring state of ordering the attack.

The government agency responsible for land rights has called the killings a massacre and has promised a speedy investigation.

Brazil's minister for agricultural development was to visit the scene on Sunday.

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