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Brazil intercepts illegal flight over Indigenous land invaded by gold miners

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The Brazilian Air Force said on Tuesday it fired warning shots at a plane and forced it to land for violating a no-fly ban over the Yanomami Indigenous reservation where illegal gold miners have been returning despite federal efforts to keep them away.

Two bursts of machine gun fire were fired during the interdiction on Monday to warn the pilot of the unregistered plane - a single-engine Cessna 182 - to change course and land, according to a video released by the Air Force.

Shortly after landing on an earthen airstrip, the pilot escaped into the rainforest, evading Federal Police who had arrived to seize the plane, an Air Force Statement said.

It was not clear whether the plane was involved in illegal gold mining, that has resumed in the vast protected reservation the size of Portugal, despite a government operation last year to remove some 20,000 illegal wildcat miners.

The Air Force has been criticized for not enforcing the no-fly zone ordered by the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Jan. 30 last year.

As Brazil's military scaled back support for the government crackdown, the gold-seeking miners have come back, deepening a humanitarian crisis that is killing the Yanomami from flu, malaria, malnutrition and violence in the isolated Amazon rainforest.

Environmental enforcers told Reuters in December that unregistered planes were flying miners back into the reservation due to the ineffective ban on flights.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Sandra Maler)