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  • Gamela Indians to the Brazilian Congress during a demonstration to discuss issues of land demarcation and Indigenous rights with authorities in Brasilia.

    Gamela Indians to the Brazilian Congress during a demonstration to discuss issues of land demarcation and Indigenous rights with authorities in Brasilia. | Photo: Reuters

There has been a surge of attacks against rural and Indigenous leaders since last year, the United Nations confirmed.

Dozens of armed men brutally attacked 13 Indigenous Gamela people over a land conflict in northern Brazil, hacking off hands and feet of at least one of them with machetes, Indigenous rights groups reported Monday.

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The Indigenous people were all hospitalized in the state capital, Sao Luis, some with severe bullet wounds and three remaining in intensive care, according to the Indigenous Missionary Council, known by the acronym Cimi.

The group added that they were leaving land recently reclaimed from cattle ranchers in the northeastern Maranhao state when they were attacked on Sunday afternoon by dozens of men armed with guns, knives and clubs. No deaths were reported.

On Monday, the United Nations urged Brazil's senate-installed government under Michel Temer to address the increasing attacks against activists in the country, denouncing a surge of attacks over land conflicts.

“The government has to fight better the impunity that seems to surround violent crimes against human rights activists in Brazil, especially those who defend their lands and resources,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein in a press conference in Geneva.

“In 2016, 61 activists were killed according to Brazil's official estimate,” the U.N. commissioner said, specifically mentioned the killing of nine members of the Landless Workers Movement on April 20 in the state of Matto Grosso.

The northern state of Para in the Amazon had the highest rate of land-related violence, according to the U.N.

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