About 20 gunmen dressed in military fatigues and police uniforms killed three policemen and wounded two others during an attack to free one of the most senior leaders of Honduras‘s powerful MS-13 gang, police said.
Alexander Mendoza, a notorious MS-13 figure also known as “El Porky”, escaped during the attack on Thursday in the city of El Progreso, 175 kilometres (108 miles) north of the capital, Tegucigalpa. He was on the way to a trial hearing.
The most important MS-13 leader on the northern city of San Pedro Sula, Mendoza had been captured in 2015 and sentenced to 20 years in jail on charges of illicit association and money laundering.
“We are going to recapture this man and arrest those who helped him escape,” said Deputy Minister of Security Luis Suazo.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez offered a reward of 2 million lempiras ($80,500) for information that leads to Mendoza’s recapture.
Local television showed images of about 20 uniformed men and with their faces covered shooting and then climbing into several vehicles to escape with Mendoza.
MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, and its rival Mara 18, are among the most powerful gangs operating in Central America, with most of their activities dedicated to extortion, assassinations and drug trafficking.
Honduras had a murder rate of 44 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2019 – one of the highest in the world, and partly responsible for the waves of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing towards the US in search of safety.