El Salvador sends 10,000 troops to capital suburb in gang crackdown

© Marvin Recinos, AFP

The government of El Salvador sent 10,000 soldiers and police to seal off a town on the outskirts of the nation’s capital Saturday to search for gang members.

The operation was one of the largest mobilizations yet in President Nayib Bukele’s nine-month-old crackdown on street gangs that long extorted money from businesses and ruled many neighborhoods of the capital, San Salvador.

The troops blocked roads going in and out of the township of Soyapango, checking people’s documents. Special teams went into the town looking for gang suspects.

“Starting now, the township of Soyapango is completely surrounded,” Bukele wrote in his Twitter account. He posted videos showing ranks of rifle-toting soldiers.

More than 58,000 people have been jailed since a state of emergency was declared following a wave of homicides in late March. Rights groups have criticized the mass roundups, saying they often sweep up young men based on their appearance or where they live.

It was part of what Bukele had called in late November “Phase Five” of the crackdown. Bukele said such tactics worked in the town of Comasagua in October.


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