Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador gangs: Arrests of members ordered

Suspected members of the 18th Street gang are guarded by a policeman in San Salvador on 29 July , 2015. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Tension between the government and gangs in El Salvador has been on the rise

El Salvador's attorney general has issued about 300 arrest warrants for gang members suspected of "terrorist acts".

Last month, gang members paralysed public transport when they ordered drivers to go on strike.

They torched buses and killed at least seven drivers who did not comply.

El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world, much of it caused by violence between two rival gangs.

Deadly toll

Following a truce between the Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18 gang, brokered in 2012, the murder rate dropped by 40%.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Soldiers were deployed to protect bus drivers threatened by gang members

But as the truce crumbled, the number murders rose again.

So far in August, 24 people have been killed on average every day, police said on Monday.

Attorney General Luis Martinez said the gangs had "gone too far, they attack the police and prosecutors, they intimidate the population and force people to leave their homes".

This year alone, 41 police officers, 14 soldiers and a prosecutor have been killed.

Mr Martinez said the arrest warrants were part of "a new strategy to impose order".

The crackdown follows July's gang-imposed public transport strike which paralysed the capital, San Salvador.

The gangs called the strike as a means of pressuring the government into including them in talks on how to reduce urban violence.

President Salvador Sanchez Ceren has ruled out negotiating with the gangs.

There are an estimated 70,000 active gang members in El Salvador.

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