October 6, 2015 / 10:32 PM / in 4 years

Homicides in El Salvador rise 72 percent as gang violence increases

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - The number of homicides in El Salvador soared 72 percent in the first nine months of 2015, the country’s forensic institute (IML) said on Tuesday, as gang-related violence increased.

There were 4,942 homicides in El Salvador from January to September this year, compared with 2,870 a year earlier, IML’s director Miguel Fortin said.

So far this year, 523 children have been killed, Fortin said, and many others have been forced to flee the country.

“It is a terrible tragedy,” Fortin told reporters. “It is a whole generation that is dying.”

The nine-month count has surpassed the total number of homicides last year, according to IML statistics.

Violence has been increasing since the breakdown last year of a 2012 truce between the country’s principal gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and rival Barrio 18.

Salvadoran police have said that 80 percent of homicides are related to purges and infighting in the gangs.

Suspected gang members have also stepped up attacks on government buildings and allegedly killed police officers, soldiers and bus drivers. In July, bus drivers went on strike to demand better security.

Security officials estimate that there are 60,000 young people who belong to gangs in El Salvador.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein; Editing by Toni Reinhold

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