Suspects in French Guiana killing confess

Suspects under custody in northern Brazil have confessed to killing two French soldiers in neighboring French Guiana, according to military police.

The two Brazilians, identified as Manoel Ferreira Moura and Ronaldo Silva Lima, "confessed to their involvement in the killings of (French soldiers) Sebastien Pissot and Stephane Moralia" during an operation against illegal gold miners in French Guiana's western Dorlin region last month, they said.

Gang leader Moura, also known as "Manoelzinho" and Silva, also known as "O Brabo," were arrested Friday in Macapa, capital of the northern Brazilian state of Amapa, local military police said.

Acting on a tip-off, police went to a Macapa hotel where the suspects were said to be staying and found them in a nearby red taxi, a police statement said.

Moura was found with $5,000 cash, a Glock 9 mm handgun and a knife, while Lima carried $275 dollars and a Glock 9 mm handgun.

Also in the vehicle was a woman identified as Marilene Santos Fonseca, who police said accompanied the two suspects during their escape from French Guiana, located on Brazil's far north-eastern border.

Fonseca, who carried $450 dollars and was accompanied by her three-year-old son, said she saw the two suspects bury two AR-15 semi-automatic rifles they had been carrying, the statement said.

French authorities earlier this month mounted a large-scale operation to try to capture Moura and his accomplices.

The Dorlin region in French Guiana has for years been the site of illegal gold mining, which has occasionally led to deadly violence.

In January, at least five people were killed during a shootout between rival gangs, just hours ahead of a visit by then president Nicolas Sarkozy.

French Guiana authorities have been trying to stamp out illegal gold mining, which causes serious ecological damage including mercury-polluted waters.

The Amapa police statement meanwhile said Moura and his gang, who are also sought by police in Dutch-speaking Suriname, are blamed for several robberies and at least 10 other killings.

Three gang members are currently in custody in Suriname while four others are on the run, it added.

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