SAN SALVADOR – Two more bus passengers were killed in El Salvador even as the country was mourning the deaths of 19 people in two attacks on public-transport vehicles last Sunday.
A spokesperson for the National Civil Police said that two men were killed by unknown assailants who boarded the vehicle and opened fire.
The incident occurred Friday at around 1:00 p.m. local time outside a shopping center in the densely populated suburb of Soyapango, about six kilometers (four miles) east of San Salvador.
The spokesperson added that no other people were wounded and that a search was being conducted in the area to track down the perpetrators.
The incident occurred on the first day of national mourning – decreed Thursday night by the national legislature – to honor the victims of two attacks last Sunday in Mejicanos, a town just north of San Salvador.
In the first of the attacks, suspected gang members set fire to a bus filled with passengers and killed 16 people, 14 of whom died at the scene. Shortly afterward, a shooting attack on another bus left three dead, two of them children.
Authorities have arrested a dozen suspects in connection with the attacks, which are blamed on the Mara 18 gang.
Gang members have been staging attacks for years on bus owners who refuse to give in to extortion, killing drivers and torching vehicles, but Sunday’s incident was the first time a bus was set on fire with the passengers still aboard.
At least 80 bus workers have been murdered and 15 vehicles burned this year by gangs.
Responding to Sunday’s attacks, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly passed a bill making attacks on public transportation a terrorist offense punishable by up to 60 years in prison.
The measure, which was put forward by the right-wing ARENA and GANA parties, won support from all 75 lawmakers present at Thursday’s session of the 84-seat body.
The legislation mandates sentences of 40-60 years in prison for those convicted of attacks on buses or transit terminals that result in casualties.
To become law, the bill must be signed by center-left President Mauricio Funes and published in the official gazette.
ARENA lawmaker Guillermo Avila urged Funes to enact the measure as quickly as possible to “send a positive message” that El Salvador does not want to witness a repeat of “these atrocious acts.”