July 12, 2006

El Salvador swoops on street gang in mass arrest

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Police swooped on an ultra-violent
street gang in one of its strongholds outside El Salvador's
capital on Wednesday, arresting 195 suspected members,
authorities said.

The raid on the Mara 18 gang followed the Tuesday killing
of a policeman that was blamed on the organization.

Policeman Jose Mauricio Sanchez, 25, was shot on duty on
Tuesday near the scene of the arrests and police said they
believed his killer to be among the suspects in custody.

Mara 18 is one of two gangs of tattooed youths who have
terrorized much of Central America with gory killings and

Considered the main security threat in Central America, the
Mara 18 and its rival the Mara Salvatrucha are thought to have
originated among criminals deported from the United States. The
region's prisons are overflowing with their members.