El Salvador mobilizes 10,000 troops near the capital

El Salvador

The President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, announced on Saturday the mobilization of 10,000 security forces in a suburb of San Salvador known as a gang stronghold.

The mobilization is the latest escalation in a crusade against gang violence that began in March, which rights groups say has been marred by unjustified bans.

“Soyapango is completely surrounded,” the president tweeted early Saturday, referring to the municipality in the eastern part of the capital region, known as a stronghold of the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs.

“8,500 soldiers and 1,500 agents have surrounded the city, while extraction teams from the police and army are tasked with taking out one by one all the gang members still there.”

Government representatives declined to comment on the mobilization.

Images released by the government showed troops carrying heavy weapons, helmets and bulletproof vests, traveling in combat vehicles. The municipality has a population of about 300,000 and was previously considered impregnable for law enforcement.

Since launching his anti-gang plan, Bukele has ordered the arrest of more than 50,000 suspected gang members, whom he describes as terrorists, and denied them basic procedural rights.

The plan aims to reduce the rate of murders in the Central American country to less than two a day, after dozens of Salvadorans were killed in a single weekend in March.

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