SAN SALVADOR – El Salvador, suffering an epidemic of violence, opened the early new year with 15 more people gunned down, including an 11-year-old killed by men dressed as police, officials said Friday.
Two men, two women and an 11-year-old child were slain in the early hours by men dressed like police, who stormed into two humble dwellings and sprayed them with gunfire. The killings occurred in the Los Cerritos community about 160 km (95 miles) east of the capital, San Salvador.
In a second incident, National Police Commissioner Veronica Uriarte said agents on patrol encountered five alleged gang members in Valle Nuevo just south of San Salvador and exchanged gunfire, killing five.
Five more people were killed in various incidents, two in rural Nueva Concepcion north of the capital; two in the municipality of San Miguel in the east, and a suspected gang member in El Espino, near the capital.
The gangs, which control territory in districts and neighborhoods across the country, are involved in the majority of homicides, drug trafficking and organized crime. They charge extortions to businesses and transport companies and kill those who refuse to pay.
According to official statistics, 2014 ended with 3,942 homicides in the country, 1,429 more than 2013. According to preliminary figures, 2015 will have ended with more than 6,670 homicides, an average of 18 violent deaths per day.