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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
El Salvador swoops on street gang
One of the men held during a police raid on a Mara 18 stronghold in El Salvador
Dozens of gang members were taken into custody
Police in El Salvador have arrested more than 190 suspected members of an ultra-violent street gang in a major operation outside the capital.

The raid on the Mara 18 gang came after a police officer was shot dead by suspected gang members on Tuesday.

The gangs, known as maras, are blamed for many killings and robberies in El Salvador and neighbouring countries.

The maras emerged in Los Angeles in the 1980s and spread to Central America when the US deported their members.

Police swooped on a district known to be a Mara 18 stronghold on Wednesday.

Local media said many of the suspected gang members were picked up as they attended a church service for three Mara 18 members killed on Monday, provoking a protest by the priest.

The raid, the biggest against the gang so far this year, was in response to the killing of a police officer who was shot dead while trying to detain two suspected gang members.

There are believed to be more than 10,000 gang members in El Salvador. In February, several Central American countries signed an agreement to help combat organised crime and tackle the gangs, seen as the main security threat in the region.




SEE ALSO
Central America bid to curb gangs
28 Feb 06 |  Americas
Gang arrests over Salvador deaths
24 Jan 06 |  Americas
El Salvador army to tackle gangs
25 Nov 05 |  Americas
Gang life tempts Salvador teens
24 Jan 05 |  Americas
Combating El Salvador's gangs
20 Mar 04 |  Americas
Country profile: El Salvador
23 May 03 |  Country profiles

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