March 3, 2016 / 4:38 PM / 4 years ago

Environmental and indigenous rights leader murdered in Honduras

Activists hold photos of slain environmental rights activist Berta Caceres and shout after her body was released from the morgue in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - An environmental rights activist known for her fight to stop hydroelectric plants and mines from encroaching on indigenous lands was shot dead early on Thursday in Honduras, prompting hundreds of students to protest in the capital.

Berta Caceres, a 43-year-old teacher, was shot and killed by two men at her home in La Esperanza, Honduras, 112 miles (180 kilometres) west of the capital, Tegucigalpa, Honduran Security Minister Julian Pacheco said, condemning the attack.

One other person was wounded in the incident, which is under investigation. The police have arrested a suspect, and are also questioning two witnesses, the government said in a statement.

The murder rate in Honduras is one of the highest in the world.

Caceres, who had received death threats, won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her struggle to prevent the construction of a $50 million dam that threatened to displace hundreds of Indians.

In protest at her murder, students from the National Autonomous University blocked streets near campus, broke windows of a local Burger King and threw rocks at riot police, who responded with tear gas.

“The cowardly killing of Berta is a tragedy that was waiting to happen. For years, she had been the victim of a sustained campaign of harassment and threats to stop her from defending the rights of indigenous communities,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

The project, which was subcontracted by a local company to Chinese builder Sinohydro [SINOH.UL], has been temporarily suspended thanks to protests led by Caceres.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia and Enrique Pretel; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Sandra Maler

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