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Search in Brazil finds backpack and clothes of indigenous expert missing with journalist

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ATALAIA DO NORTE, Brazil, June 12 (Reuters) – Search teams in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest said on Sunday they had found clothes belonging to missing indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who was traveling with British journalist Dom Phillips, as well as a backpack with a laptop.

A firefighter told reporters on television that the Equinox backpack with clothing, laptop and other personal belongings was found tied to a half-buried tree trunk in the area where the two men had were last seen on Sunday. The firefighter, Lieutenant Barbosa Amorim, said he did not know which of the two men he belonged to.

Earlier, Elizeu Mayaruna, who works for indigenous agency Funai, told Reuters that while searching the forest along the Itacoai River on Saturday, he found clothes, a tarp and a bottle of motor oil.

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Mayaruna and two other members of an indigenous search team who knew Pereira, a former Funai official, said they recognized a shirt and pants that belonged to him.

Witnesses said they saw Pereira and Phillips, a freelance journalist who writes for the Guardian and the Washington Post, descend this river last Sunday.

The two men were on a reporting trip to the remote jungle near the border with Peru and Colombia which is home to the largest number of uncontacted indigenous people in the world. The wild and lawless region has attracted cocaine smuggling gangs, as well as loggers, miners and illegal hunters.

News of the couple’s disappearance reverberated around the world, with Brazilian icons from footballing great Pelé to singer Caetano Veloso joining politicians, environmentalists and human rights activists in urging President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search. .

Reuters witnesses saw the stretch of riverbank where Mayaruna discovered the clothing cordoned off by police on Sunday morning as investigators scoured the area, with half a dozen boats carrying police, soldiers and firefighters back and forth .

The divers also discovered a large black Equinox-branded backpack on Sunday afternoon with books, a laptop and clothes inside, according to a report by O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, which cited a doorman. -word of the Amazonas State Fire Department.

The state fire department press office and federal police did not immediately respond to questions about the discovery of a backpack and clothing related to the missing men.

State police detectives involved in the investigation told Reuters they were focusing on poachers and illegal fishers in the area, who often clashed with Pereira as he organized indigenous patrols of the area. local reserve. Read more

Police have arrested a fisherman, Amarildo da Costa, known as “Pelado”, for possession of a weapon and are keeping him in custody as they investigate whether he was involved in the men’s disappearance.

Lawyers and Costa’s family said he was fishing the river legally and denied playing a role in the men’s disappearance.

Some 150 troops had been deployed via riverboats to search for the missing men and interview locals, joining indigenous search parties who had been searching for the couple for a week.

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Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Brad Haynes and Stephen Coates

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