The attack happened on Friday when two members of a group known as “Forest Guardians” left their village in search of water. Five armed men approached and immediately started shooting at them, according to the Human Rights Secretary of Maranhao.
One of the indigenous leaders, Paulo Paulino Guajajara, was shot in the neck and died. The second person was shot in the back but was able to escape, according to Survival International, a nonprofit pro-indigenous organization.
Brazilian Minister of Justice and Public Security Sergio Moro called the incident a “terrible” crime.
“We will spare no effort to bring those responsible for this serious crime to justice,” Moro said in a tweet.
Brazilian Federal Police said they would investigate the attack.
The Guajarara are an indigenous tribe that works to protect the rainforest. The group has been continuously threatened by loggers who experts say have taken advantage of reduced controls and less oversight to seize control of forest lands.