SAN SALVADOR – Five suspected gang members were murdered over the weekend in a rural area between the central cities of Soyapango and Ilopango, El Salvador’s National Civilian Police, or PNC, said.
Investigators are looking at differing versions of what happened, a PNC spokesman told Efe.
Some eyewitnesses said the killers followed the young men after they left a dance, while others said the assailants arrived in the area and went straight to murder the suspected gang members, the PNC spokesman said.
“We are not working on a specific theory,” PNC deputy inspector Salvador Cubias Saldaña told Radio Nacional.
The victims, who range in age from 14 to 22, are suspected of being members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, which is currently at war with the rival Mara 18.
Investigators “have not confirmed” that the victims were gang members, Cubias Saldaña said.
Three of the young men had their throats slit and the other two had “lacerations from knives” and gunshot wounds, the PNC spokesman said.
The killings are believed to have occurred between midnight Saturday and the early morning hours on Sunday.
Two women were murdered in the same area about a month ago, Cubias Saldaña said.
El Salvador’s two largest violent youth gangs, known as “maras,” are Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha.
Mara Salvatrucha is a criminal organization that evolved on the streets of Los Angeles during the 1980s, with most of its members young Salvadorans whose parents fled their nation’s erstwhile civil war for the United States.
Because many of the gang members were born in El Salvador, they were subject to deportation when rounded up during immigration crackdowns in California in the 1990s.
Sent “home” to a land they barely knew, they formed gangs that spread throughout El Salvador and to neighboring countries in Central America, where membership is now counted in the tens, or even hundreds of thousands, and gang members are engaged in murder, drug dealing, kidnapping and people smuggling.
In addition to those activities, gang members are blamed throughout Central America for a spike in rapes and robberies, and for running protection rackets to extort “taxes” from bus companies and owners of small businesses.
Police estimate that some 10,000 gang members, most of them affiliated either with Mara 18 or Mara Salvatrucha operate in El Salvador.
President Mauricio Funes has implemented a security policy that calls for deploying army troops in areas plagued by violence, which claims an average of 13 lives per day in the Central American country. EFE