Federal police began a jungle manhunt Friday for gold prospectors suspected of slaughtering nearly an entire Indian village near the Venezuelan border.

Authorities were searching for Joao Neto, a rancher believed to have financed the miners who took part in the slaying of more than 30 Yanomami Indians, members of one of the largest and last Stone Age tribes.Thousands of prospectors have invaded the tribe's 37,000-square-mile traditional territory since 1987, seeking gold, diamonds, tin and other minerals despite government efforts to expel them.

Army helicopters flew over dense forest in northern Roraima state on Friday, but police said the killers probably fled to Venezuela across the unpatrolled jungle border.

Investigators of the government's National Indian Foundation say about 15 miners ambushed the Homoxi-Itu village on Tuesday after luring the Yanomami from two "malocas," or communal huts, with rice and sugar.

The miners opened fire with shotguns as the men emerged from the straw-and-wood huts. They then charged the malocas, stabbing to death women and more than 10 children, said Wilke Celio da Silva, a Yanomami expert for the foundation who visited the village on Thursday.

The invaders dismembered the bodies with machetes and set fire to the malocas. News reports said four Yanomami managed to escape the gunfire and fled into the jungle.

Rescuers found ashes from the huts and burnt bodies strewn about, said Roseli Garcia, a foundation spokeswoman in Brasilia.