Six inmates have been found strangled to death at a prison in El Salvador, the BBC reported
. Police said the six — two of whom were minors — were members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, an international criminal group involved in drug trafficking and racketeering.
The slain men were incarcerated for murder, extortion, and other crimes.
Prison officials believe the murders were a carefully planned settling of scores between gang members. Authorities have brought in extra police to patrol the facility in Tonacatepeque, a town located 11 miles north of San Salvador, the capital.
The victims were serving sentences for crimes including extortion and murder.
Prison officials said they suspected the killings had been planned to coincide with festivities marking “Prisoner’s Day” — a time when the victims would have likely been drunk and less able to thwart a well-planned attack.
However, the mother of one of the slain inmates — who was among the relatives attending the Prisoner’s Day event — played down the idea that alcohol played a role in his death. Prisoners, she said, “always take alcoholic drinks.”
Salvadoran prisons have long been plagued by violence and overcrowding. Last month, the Daily Mail
published a story showing inmates living in “prison pits” where “notorious gangs are crammed together like livestock in cells the size of a shed.”
The Daily Mail story included scores of pictures showing more than 30 inmates crammed for days on end into sweltering 12x15 cells at one Salvadoran facility. The reporter was granted access to the cells by a police officer angered by prison conditions.
Over the years, Salvoradan prisons have exploded into mass-casualty violence. In August 2004, 31 prisoners were killed in fighting between prisoners a jail near San Salvador, according to the BBC
Twenty-one died in a January 2007 riot at another Salvadoran prison, the BBC reported
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