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Two Honduran environmental rights activists were shot dead in broad daylight triggering calls for an independent investigation.

Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla, both from Guapinol in northern Honduras, were the co-founders of Guapinol’s grassroots resistance against an iron ore mine. The ore mine is owned by one of the country’s most powerful couples, The Guardian reported. The community around there has been battling to stop the illegally sanctioned mine, with Domínguez and Bonilla at the forefront.

The mine in Guapinol was one of the many that were approved by the government despite being incredibly environmentally destructive. The pair were murdered on a Saturday afternoon as they returned home on a moped after finishing collecting payments for a cable company. They were stopped by armed assailants, and both died at the scene, according to relatives.

Domínguez was one of the 32 community leaders falsely accused of crimes by the mining company and other local authorities. Police and prosecutors reportedly immediately pushed off the deaths as a botched mugging, although the assailants left without taking the victims’ moped, cellphones, or money. UN agencies, rights groups, and the US embassy have condemned the killing and are asking for an investigation.

“It’s vital that an independent impartial investigation is carried out which must take into account the possibility that Aly and Jairo have been retaliated against for their work defending human rights,” said Michael Phoenix, head of research for the UN special rapporteur for human rights defenders.

“We reject the official hypothesis. These two young men were founders of the struggle to protect our natural resources from an illegal mine that is destroying rivers in the national park. For five years we’ve been threatened, criminalised and falsely imprisoned, the only thing left was murder,” said Rey Domínguez, a community leader, and Aly’s brother.

Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla spent their lives fighting for the planet. They deserve justice!

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