Central America: Sweeping raids target hundreds of gang members | News | DW | 28.11.2020
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Central America: Sweeping raids target hundreds of gang members

Over 700 people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were arrested on charges including terrorism, murder, kidnapping and extortion. The US-backed operations primarily targeted the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs.

Authorities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras arrested several hundred suspected street gang members in sweeping raids this week, officials announced on Friday.

The cross-border law enforcement actions were part of a US-backed effort called "Operation Regional Shield."

"The US Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners in Central America are committed to continued collaboration in locating and arresting gang members and associates engaged in transnational crimes," said US Attorney General William Bar in a statement.

Watch video 06:47

Visiting a gang prison in El Salvador

Terrorism, murder, kidnapping charges

In El Salvador, criminal charges were filed against more than 1,150 suspected members of organized crime groups, primarily related to MS-13 and 18th Street gangs.

By Friday, the country's national civil police arrested 572 of the suspects on charges including terrorism, murder, kidnapping, money laundering and human trafficking among others.

Guatemala arrested 40 people after executing 80 search warrants. Arrest warrants were served to 29 people already in custody. The US Department of Justice said all of the people involved in Guatemala were members of MS-13 or the 18th Street gang.

During the raids in Guatemala, police seized drugs and filed charges for extortion, illicit association, conspiracy to commit murder and extortive obstruction.

In Honduras, police arrested 75 members of the same two gangs and carried out more than 10 search warrants. Five law enforcement agents, including a police commissioner, were among those arrested in the operations in Honduras.

Cross-border cooperation

The attorney general's office in El Salvador said the raids were part of the fourth phase of the US-backed operation, which saw cross-border cooperation between the three Central American countries involved.

The MS-13 and 18th Street gangs are considered some of the most dangerous criminal organizations from Central America and are a cause for much of the violence in the region. The gangs have also spread to the United States,  with President Donald Trump making combating MS-13 a priority for his administration.

kbd/rs (AP, EFE, Reuters)