El Salvador murder rate surges with 125 dead in three days

Long plagued by gang violence, El Salvador's murder rate has taken a turn for the even worse, with at least 125 murders in just three days, police said (AFP Photo/Jose Cabezas)

San Salvador (AFP) - Long plagued by gang violence, El Salvador's murder rate has taken a turn for the even worse, with at least 125 murders in just three days, police said.

National Police chief Mauricio Ramirez said 40 people were killed Sunday; then 42 Monday and 43 on Tuesday, most in gang-related bloodletting.

"These are worrisome numbers. These are Salvadorans who are dying. Regardless of who is a gang member or not," he told reporters.

Authorities in this Central American nation of six million say drug gang leaders are believed to be trying to pressure the government to sit down to negotiate.

"They want to exert some pressure and for the government to grant some of the things they are asking for," said Justice and Public Safety Minister Benito Lara.

Top prosecutor Luis Martinez warned that what he called "groups of terrorist criminals" would pay for any such effort.

One gang, Barrio 18, ordered a local bus strike last month; seven bus drivers were killed.

There were 3,332 murders between January and June, up from 2,191 a year earlier, government data show.

The gangs have some 72,000 members including 13,000 in detention.

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