US researchers investigating the CIA's knowledge of atrocities in El Salvador have had their offices broken into and files stolen. 

People & Power - El Salvador: Quest for Justice

The Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington said in a statement published on its website that the break-in could have been in retaliation for its work, pointing out a number of peculiarities about the incident.

"There was no sign of forcible entry; the office was searched, but its contents were treated carefully and the door was locked upon exit, characteristics which do not fit the pattern of opportunistic campus theft," the statement read.

The organisation also said it had spoken to colleagues in El Salvador, "many of whom have emphasised parallels between this incident and attacks Salvadoran human rights organisations have experienced".

The centre said the assailants had targeted the office of its director, Angelina Godoy, whose computer and hard drive had been stolen, adding that 90 percent of her research on El Salvador was taken.

"The hard drive has no real resale value, so there seems no reason to take it unless the intention was to extract information."

CIA lawsuit

Earlier in October, the Center for Human Rights filed a lawsuit against the CIA's alleged failure to hand over declassified documents relating to the civil war in El Salvador.

The centre said it requested 20 files under a Freedom of Information request, which contain information on US-trained Salvadoran commander Colonel Sigifredo Ochoa Perez's involvement in the 1981 Santa Cruz massacre.

The activists say they hope the information will bring closure to thousands of Salvadorans who lost family members to atrocities carried about during the civil war, which lasted between 1979 and 1992. 

At least 75,000 people died in the conflict between the US-backed military government and leftist armed groups backed by the former-Soviet Union.

Source: Al Jazeera