Thousands attend funeral for slain Honduran environmentalist Berta Caceres
Relatives mourn over murdered indigenous activist Berta Caceres' coffin during her funeral in La Esperanza, on March 5, 2016. (Agence France-Presse/Orlando Sierra)

Thousands of mourners paid their final tributes Saturday to Berta Caceres, the indigenous activist killed on Thursday, demanding justice for the renowned environmentalist.

The 45-year-old head of the Civic Council of Indigenous and People's Organizations (COPINH) was gunned down in her hometown of La Esperanza, 125 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of the Honduran capital Tegicigalpa, in what her family has called an assassination.

Mourners from across the country attending the funeral in La Esperanza chanted "Justice, justice!" "Berta lives!" and "The struggle continues!" as her coffin was taken to a church service before its burial.

Caceres's brother Gustavo, one of the first to find her body, told AFP that at least two masked men entered the back of the house where his sister was sleeping early on Thursday.

She got up to investigate the noise and confronted the men, who fractured her arm and leg before shooting her at least eight times at point blank range, he said.

A bullet also wounded Gustavo Castro Soto of the organization Friends of the Earth Mexico, who had been sleeping in the next room, when he came out to see what was happening. The attackers fled after he pretended to be dead.

Caceres lived in the house, which belongs to her mother, until moving out two months ago.

"Now we understand it was a way to protect her family," Gustavo Caceres said.

A mother of four who would have turned 45 Friday, Caceres rose to prominence for leading the indigenous Lenca people in a struggle against a hydroelectric dam project that would have flooded large areas of native lands and cut off water supplies to hundreds.

In 2015, she won the Goldman Environmental Prize, considered the world's top award for grassroots environmental activism.

She persevered in her activism despite numerous death threats.

Caceres was arrested in 2013 for illegal possession of firearms in what critics say was harrassment. She was acquitted in 2014.

Caceres's killing has drawn international condemnation, including from the United Nations, the United States and many environmental activists.

The activist's family has accused the authorities of trying to mask her death as a random murder, insisting that she was assassinated because of her activism against environmental destruction by large mining and hydroelectric companies.

They also accuse the government of responsibility in her murder for failing to provide protection and investigate the threats against her.