Freelance journalist Dom Phillips, 57, a regular contributor to The Guardian daily, who was researching a book in the Javari Valley, and Bruno Araujo Pereira, 41, a recognized expert on indigenous peoples, have not been seen since. Sunday morning.

They had “received threats on the ground the week (preceding) their disappearance”, revealed in a press release the Union of Indigenous Organizations of the Javari Valley (Univaja) and the Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated Indigenous Peoples and recently contacted (OPI).

The Amazonas civil police, which is involved in the investigations, said Tuesday evening that they were questioning a “suspect”. Four other people were questioned “as witnesses”.

The federal police and the navy resumed their search on Tuesday, the latter with helicopters in particular.

The Brasilia government, saying it was “very concerned”, assured that the police were doing everything “to locate them as soon as possible”.

In a statement on Monday, the Ministry of Defense said it had deployed 150 soldiers “specialists in jungle operations, who know the terrain where the search is taking place”.

Located in the west of the Amazon, near Peru, the Javari Valley is very difficult to access and is home to tribes that are often totally isolated. This region is experiencing an escalation in armed violence due to the presence of miners, artisanal gold miners and poachers.

“Two people in a boat, in a region like this, completely wild, is an adventure that is not advisable. Anything can happen,” said the Brazilian president in an interview with Sbt News.

“It may be an accident, they may have been executed”, continued Mr. Bolsonaro who “prays God that they are found as soon as possible”. “The armed forces are working hard in the region,” he said.

– “Every minute counts” –

According to Univaja and OPI, the two men left Atalaia do Norte, in the state of Amazonas, to interview residents around a base of Funai — the government body responsible for indigenous peoples — , and reached Lake Jaburu on Friday evening.

They headed back on Sunday morning, but did not return to Atalaia do Norte as planned.

They stopped in the community of Sao Rafael, where Bruno Pereira had scheduled a meeting with the local chief to discuss the issue of indigenous patrols to combat the increasingly frequent “invasions” of land under the Bolsonaro government.

The local chief not arriving, they decided to return to Atalaia do Norte, two hours away by boat. They were last seen just downstream of Sao Rafael.

Federal police confirmed to AFP that the last two men to have seen Phillips and Pereira were questioned on Monday and later released.

“Every minute counts (…) we call on the Brazilian authorities to do everything possible,” the journalist’s sister, Sian Phillips, implored in a video posted on social networks from the United Kingdom.

“We knew it was a dangerous place, but Dom thought it was possible to preserve nature and the lives of indigenous people,” she added.

The journalist’s Brazilian wife, Alessandra Sampaio, living with him in Salvador (north-east), asked in a video broadcast by TV Bahia for “an intensification of the search”.

Pereira’s family said “time is crucial…especially if they are injured”.

About 40 journalists and friends of Phillips, who also worked for the Washington Post, the New York Times and The Intercept, said in a letter published by O Globo that they refused to “consider the worst” and also called for an acceleration researches.

“I hope they will be found and return in peace,” ex-president Lula da Silva wrote on social media, posting a photo of the journalist during an interview in 2017.

The Javari Valley is one of the largest indigenous territories in Brazil. It is home to some 6,300 people from 26 ethnic groups, 19 of whom are isolated, according to the NGO Instituto Socioambiental.

Bruno Araujo Pereira, who worked for Funai for a long time, has regularly received threats, including death, from illegal loggers and miners coveting indigenous lands.