Reuters International

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - A colleague of slain Honduran activist Berta Caceres, known for her fight against the encroachment of hydroelectric dams and mines on indigenous lands, was killed by unidentified men in the western part of the country, authorities said on Thursday.

Lesbia Yaneth Urquia, 49, was found dead by a road in the semi-rural town of Marcala, 100 kilometres west of Tegucigalpa, the capital, Honduran Security Ministry spokesman Luis Osabas said by phone. Urquia had been missing since Wednesday when she left home on a bicycle, he added.

Urquia had been a member since 2009 of the Consejo de Organizaciones Populares e Indigenas de Honduras (COPINH), an indigenous rights organisation whose award-winning leader, Caceres, was killed in March. Another member, Nelson Garcia, was shot dead a few weeks later.

Honduran police have arrested five people for Caceres' murder, including a representative of a hydroelectric dam whose construction faced local opposition.

Urquia fought against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the La Paz region, COPINH said in a statement, adding that the dam is owned by the husband of Congressional Vice President Gladys Lopez.

COPINH said that it held Lopez, her husband and the government responsible for the murder of Urquia.

Lopez referred to the allegations against her and her husband as "malicious comments," and told local media that she herself demands justice for the murder of Urquia, whom she described as a family friend.

The murder is being investigated as a family property dispute and as an extortion case, as Urquia was the owner of two hotels and a small market, Eddie Lopez, a police sub-inspector based in Marcala, told reporters in a briefing. Urquia had reported extortion, he added.

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Alizeh Kohari; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler)

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