Missing Venezuela miners' bodies found

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Caracas (AFP)

The bodies of 14 miners have been found in a mass grave in Venezuela, from among 28 missing after an armed attack, officials said Monday.

Family members say the 28 failed to return home from their shifts on March 4, and reports soon emerged that they had been gunned down by attackers trying to take over their small-scale gold mine.

Their families have been staging protests in in Tumeremo, Bolivar state, demanding authorities find out what happened.

"We found the site where the remains are buried. At this moment there's a team of experts at the scene exhuming the remains," Attorney General Luisa Ortega told TV network Globovision.

She cautioned that the investigation was ongoing.

President Nicolas Maduro last week ordered the army into the remote area in southeastern Venezuela, calling the case "a possible massacre in a war between gangs."

Interior Minister Gustavo Gonzalez said authorities suspect the attack was ordered by an Ecuadoran man with ties to Colombian paramilitaries named Jamilton Andres Ulloa Suarez, alias "The Mole."

Ortega, the attorney general, said investigators were still trying to establish a motive.

The area is known for armed criminal groups, and local officials have speculated one of them may have tried to take over the unlicensed mine by force.