French police Sunday discovered the body of a man in the woods of the Sivens Forest near Tarn District, about 400 miles south of Paris, where ongoing protests against a dam project drew thousands of activists who clashed with authorities over the weekend.
The body was discovered before dawn at around 2am, according to French newspaper Le Monde. The identity of the man and cause of his death are still unknown, and an investigation in ongoing, local authorities said in a statement.
Ben Lefetey, a spokesman for the group Save the Testet Wetland, a 41-acre area of forest and wildlife under imminent threat of destruction, told AFP the man died as a result of clashes with police.
"We are not saying that the security forces have killed an opponent, but a witness said that the death had occurred at the time of fighting," Lefetey said.
Over the weekend, some 2,000 eco-activists gathered in the woodlands located northeast of the city of Toulouse. The land is being cleared to make way for a controversial dam.
Local residents and opponents have for weeks contested the deforestation of the area, employing various protest tactics — from burying themselves up to their necks in the road to staging hunger strikes — but the weekend's protests marked the largest rally since the dispute began, according to police.
At least seven officers were injured Saturday evening after up to 150 "hooded anarchists" dressed entirely in black threw "incendiary devices," Lieutenant-Colonel Sylvain Renier told Le Monde. Renier later reported the situation had calmed by 9pm and said that he had not heard of any injuries from the activist camp.
Violent clashes at the site have broken out more frequently in recent weeks as the local council has plowed ahead with construction plans. Angry protesters wielding gas canisters and Molotov cocktails have demanded the immediate halt of deforestation. They have been met with police pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Many have been arrested.
The proposed dam, which would store nearly 1.5 million cubic meters of water, will supply much-needed irrigation to surrounding farms, the Tarn council argues. But environmentalists say its construction would kill off wildlife, including 94 protected species that reside in the forest.
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