El Salvador arrests over bus attack
Gang members accused of setting a bus on fire, killing 14 people in San Salvador.
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2010 05:51 GMT
Attackers set a bus on fire on Sunday on the outskirts of San Salvador, killing 14 people [AFP]

El Salvador's police have arrested seven suspected gang member over the killing of 14 people in an attack on a bus.

The men detained on Monday were accused of setting a public bus on fire in the capital, San Salvador, a day earlier.

Authorities said armed attackers had shot at a bus in the outskirts of the city, doused it with fuel and lit it as passengers tried to escape.

"We're talking about 14 people who were burned to death because they could not leave the bus, according to the reports that I have had," Mauricio Funes, the president, said in a statement.

"[This is an act of] terrorism and I call it that because there is no doubt that the attackers were trying to sow terror in the population."

Second attack

In another incident, gang members boarded a minibus and shot at  passengers. Two girls and one adult were killed in that attack.

Police say the motives are not clear, but some Salvadorans say it may be a warning to bus operators that refuse to pay extortion to criminal gangs.

Gang violence in El Salvador leaves on average about 13 people murdered each day, along with dozens of cases of armed robbery.

"Innocents died," Carlos Ascencio, the police chief, said about the bus attacks.

"It's a sad fact. Let's get to the bottom of the whole thing because this is an act of terrorism that we will not let go unpunished."

Since late last year the government has moved to crack down on gangs, deploying 4,000 troops to reinforce police in providing security in the streets.

Youth gangs, which largely started in the United States and expanded in El Salvador when criminal immigrants were deported back home, run large extortion rings in the country, demanding payments from bus drivers and store owners under the threat of death.

Branches of the same gangs can be found across Central America.

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