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Turtle campaigner is shot dead

An environmentalist who worked to protect leatherback turtles on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast has been found dead on a beach used by drug traffickers.

Costa Rica's police investigations unit said that a motive in the killing of Jairo Mora Sandoval has not been determined.

He was a volunteer with the non-profit group Widecast, which protects turtle nests from poachers in Moin beach in Limon province.

His beaten body was found on Friday. He had had his hands tied behind his back and had been shot in the head, said Widecast director Didiher Chacon.

Mr Mora Sandoval, 26, had been patrolling the beach along with four female volunteers on Thursday night when masked men kidnapped them. The women escaped their attackers and went to the police, Mr Chacon said.

He said he suspects drug traffickers are behind the killing, as Moin beach is used to bring in drugs.

"There are several drug dealers who are known to authorities and who need the beach totally deserted," Mr Chacon said.

He said he has decided to remove all of his volunteers from Moin, leaving the turtle eggs exposed to poachers, who sell each egg for 1 US dollar (66p).

In a message posted on its Facebook page, the US Embassy in Costa Rica called Mr Mora Sandoval's killing "senseless".

He was "a committed Costa Rican environmentalist who was sounding the alarms about threats received from anti-wildlife criminal groups and drug traffickers," it said.

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