Bodies of 17 missing Venezuelan miners found

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  March 15, 2016 at 2:42 PM
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CARACAS, Venezuela, March 15 (UPI) -- Venezuela on Tuesday revealed that authorities have found the remains of 17 miners who disappeared after a violent attack.

Authorities said the discovery was made possible by 14 witnesses who were near the illegal gold mine near the city of Tumeremo in Venezuela's Bolívar state where the March 4 attack took place. At least 21 miners went missing. Four bodies were found earlier.

"We have concluded the search for missing persons in Tumeremo with the discovery of 17 bodies," Venezuela's Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said in a statement.

The majority of bodies were found wrapped in black plastic bags and dumped in a mass grave. Some witnesses said the miners were shot indiscriminately and several were cut with a chain saw.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro deployed more than 1,000 soldiers and three helicopters to search for the missing miners amid fears of unrest following the violent attack, particularly after the state's governor initially denied the incident.

The circumstances surrounding the attack are unclear. Government officials said a criminal gang headed by an Ecuadorian attempting to take control of the gold mine launched the attack, while opposition leaders claim local government officials are involved.

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