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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 August, 2004, 05:10 GMT 06:10 UK
El Salvador prison riot kills 31
La Esperanza jail
Prisoners are said to have used the riot for revenge attacks
Fighting between prisoners at a jail in El Salvador has left 31 people dead and around two dozen injured, police say.

The violence at La Esperanza prison began when members of the Mara 18 gang clashed with other convicts, the deputy public security minister said.

The country's prison chief said the situation was "almost under control".

La Esperanza was designed for 800 inmates but holds more than 3,000. Riots are commonplace in central and south America's overcrowded prisons.

Nearly 70 people died in April in an uprising in neighbouring Honduras.

Meanwhile, in May, a fire at a prison in northern Honduras killed more than 100 people.

Officials said the fire was caused by a short-circuit - though survivors of the blaze have alleged it was started deliberately.

'No escapes'

Special forces soldiers had been brought in to calm the violence at La Esperanza prison and ambulances were ferrying the injured from the scene.

A Mara 18 gang member inside a prison in San Salvador
Gangs rule the roost in El Salvador's overcrowded prisons

The road to the prison was closed while a helicopter monitored events from above, reports said.

Explosions were heard inside the prison compound, which lies on the outskirts of the capital, San Salvador.

According to an official from the state prosecutor's office, the prisoners had used grenades, guns and machetes against each other.

Police were planning to search the facility for firearms after the situation had calmed down.

The authorities had also promised to transfer members of the Mara 18 gang to another prison - a key demand of the rioting inmates, the Reuters news agency reports.

Gangs such as the Mara 18 have been in the line of fire since central American governments vowed to stem a rising tide of street violence.

Blaze at Honduran jail kills 100
17 May 04  |  Americas
Combating El Salvador's gangs
20 Mar 04  |  Americas
Honduras rioters back in prison
07 Apr 03  |  Americas
Rioting Brazil inmates get wishes
23 Apr 04  |  Americas
Brazil prisons 'a disaster'
08 Sep 03  |  Americas
Country profile: El Salvador
01 Jun 04  |  Country profiles


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