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  • Relatives and friends of the 28 miners who went missing in the town of Tumeremo, Venezuela, demand answers from officials, March 8, 2016.

    Relatives and friends of the 28 miners who went missing in the town of Tumeremo, Venezuela, demand answers from officials, March 8, 2016. | Photo: AFP

Published 15 March 2016

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez feared the miners had been killed by a gang.

Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega said authorities uncovered 17 bodies from a mass grave in Tumeremo, in the southeastern state of Bolivar, near to where scores of miners went missing.

Ortega said late Monday on Twitter that investigators concluded their work in the Amazon jungle where the bodies were found wrapped in black plastic bags and dumped in a 5-meter deep hole in the ground.

Witnesses to the scene claim the bodies were dismembered.

Over 20 gold miners working in the Atenas mine were reported missing on March. 6. Officials initially thought 28 had disappeared but that figure was later reduced to 21.

"We have concluded the search for missing persons in Tumeremo with the discovery of 17 bodies"

Local media reported a recent discovery of significant amounts of gold had pitched the miners against a local gang who wanted the reserves.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Jamilton Andres Ulloa Suarez, known as The Mole, the leader of the gang who authorities believe are behind the murders.

Venezuelan Air Force troops were deployed to the remote jungle area, near the border with Guyana, on a search mission a few days after the miners were reported missing.

"We won't rest until we find those responsible for these acts, which in the eyes of all Venezuelans are abominable," said Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez last week.

He said at the time that they had probably been killed by gangs fighting over control of illegal mining in the Venezuelan Amazon.

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