The Brazilian government has launched its biggest ever operation to remove thousands of cows owned by illegal land grabbers from indigenous territory in the Amazon rainforest.

Three helicopters, a dozen vehicles and a heavily armed corps of police and environment rangers are carrying out the cattle drive, which criminal gangs attempted to block by setting fires on the route, destroying bridges and intimidating drivers.

Operation Eraha Tapiro (“Ox Removal” in the language of the Assurini Indigenous people) aims to restore state control over the Ituna-Itatá Indigenous Territory, which suffered some of the worst deforestation and invasions in the Amazon during the previous presidency of the nationalist Jair Bolsonaro.