July 14, 2016 / 10:39 PM / 3 years ago

Guatemala police raid rival gangs, more than 100 arrested

A woman gestures after being detained on suspicion of belonging to a criminal gang accused of extortion, following an operation by local authorities, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Saul Martinez

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemalan police captured 106 suspected gang members in a series of raids against warring gangs responsible for a wave of drug violence, authorities said on Thursday.

The operation involved 146 raids in 12 states in which police seized ammunition, firearms, bank receipts and cell phones used by gangsters in the Central American country to threaten to kill their victims, officials said.

“We concentrated our efforts on criminals who commit crimes within the country and also more than 30 people inside prisons who belonged to these criminal structures,” Guatemala’s Interior Minister Francisco Rivas told a press conference.

He said police had dismantled 53 criminal rings since June.

The raids targeted members of the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs, which for years have been locked in a bitter rivalry for power.

Jairo Chocon, a Mara Salvatrucha capo, was among those who were captured, police spokesman Jorge Aguilar told reporters.

Lawyers for the suspects were not immediately available for comment.

Guatemala, which sits on Mexico’s southern border, is strategic territory for cartels who use small planes, trucks and even makeshift submarines to move Colombian cocaine to consumers in the United States.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Natalie Schachar; editing by Grant McCool

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