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Last Updated: Friday, 9 April, 2004, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Honduras police find severed head
A man's severed head has been found on a park bench in Honduras, bringing the number of such incidents to 10 in the past nine months, police sources said.

Officials had blamed previous incidents on the country's notorious youth gangs, as they attempt to defy President Ricardo Maduro's crackdown on them.

A message accompanying the latest severed head read "Maduro old man, we are so hungry we are eating people."

A police spokesman told Reuters no-one had claimed responsibility.

President Maduro announced moves to tackle youth gangs, known as "maras" last August.

Hundreds of suspects have been rounded up since, on charges of violence, robbery and drug-related offences.

Stricter sentences have also been imposed.

Police spokesman Edgardo Zeron, quoted by Reuters, said the head was found in a plastic bag in a busy park in El Progreso, some 150 km (94 miles) north of the capital, Tegucigalpa.

He said Thursday's incident, and the others, were being investigated by a special police unit.

US-born

The "maras", which have their origins in the street gangs of Los Angeles, are active in several Central American countries.

The "Mara Salvatrucha" and its rival gang "Mara 18" are among the most feared.

In Honduras, some 30,000 youths - mostly recruited from street children - are believed to be members of these and other groups.

Gang wars or alleged executions by rogue policemen are thought to have killed more than 1,500 street children in the country in the past five years.


SEE ALSO:
Police blamed for jail riot deaths
12 May 03  |  Americas
Honduras acts over child killings
14 Mar 03  |  Americas
Honduras probes mass child killings
03 Sep 02  |  Americas
Combating El Salvador's gangs
20 Mar 04  |  Americas
Country profile: Honduras
23 Oct 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Honduras
03 Jan 04  |  Country profiles



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