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Venezuela May Have Found 14 of 21 Missing Miners

Banner with the photos of the 28 missing Venezuelan miners.
A banner with photos of several missing miners hangs on a tree near Tumeremo, Venezuela, Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Fabiola Ferrero / AP

Investigators have found the remains of at least 14 people presumed to be among the 21 miners who went missing over a week ago after a massacre near a gold mine in Venezuela's violent southern jungle, authorities said on Monday.

The remains were found buried in a common grave about 5 meters (16.4 feet) deep, government ombudsman Tarek Saab said in an interview with local news station Globovision.

Chief prosecutor Luis Ortega earlier in the day told the same TV station that investigators were still seeking to determine the motive for the crime.

The massacre took place near Tumeremo, in Bolivar state, with some witnesses cited by local media, relatives and politicians as saying that a gang shot the miners and cut some up with a chain saw on March 4.

The case has shaken Venezuelans, even though the country suffers one of the world's highest murder rates. The government has pointed the finger at foreign paramilitaries, while opponents have accused security forces of being negligent.

Gang fights are common in the vast and remote area near the borders of Guyana and Brazil, which is riddled with illegal mines.

Arrest warrants have been issued for three people, including an Ecuadorean, Ortega said. One woman had been arrested and is due to appear in court in the city of Puerto Ordaz on Tuesday. (Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Andrew Cawthorne, Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Brian Ellsworth, Editing by Girish Gupta, Richard Chang and Bernard Orr)

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