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article imageSalvador police strike blow against MS-13 gang

By AFP     Apr 8, 2019 in Crime

Salvadoran police said Monday they had struck a "heavy blow" against the Central American country's violent MS-13 gang, arresting 117 members for a raft of crimes from murder to extortion.

US President Donald Trump has frequently pointed to the gang to justify his immigration policy, labelling it a danger to Americans and claiming many Salvadoran migrants to the US are gang members.

Announcing the arrests, El Salvador's top police official Howard Cotto said those arrested came from 11 separate MS-13 cells operating against businesses in downtown San Salvador.

Cotto said a complicating factor for El Salvador's anti-gang operations was that members of the feared gang operating in the capital lived elsewhere.

"They come from outside the capital to commit crimes," he said, claiming police "have managed to strike a heavy blow."

The charges against them include 16 homicides and extortion.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull US aid from El Salvador amid claims the government is not doing enough to counter the 70,000-member gang. Some 17,000 MS-13 members are in prison.

El Salvador's homicide rate of 51 per 100,000 inhabitants makes it one of the world's most violent countries outside of full-fledged conflict zones.

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