A high-level security official in El Salvador said a stolen car, found with a grenade booby-trap, was a failed gang attack on police. If true, this would be a concerning sign of the escalating aggression between El Salvador’s gangs and the security forces.
On the night of June 15, members of El Salvador’s National Civil Police (PNC) located the stolen car in a residential neighborhood in Soyapango, a municipality in capital city San Salvador, reported La Prensa Grafica. When the police inspected the abandoned car, they noticed an M67 grenade tied to the passenger side door, placed next to the gear shift. An investigator said the device was rigged in order to explode when the passenger door was opened, but did not go off since the officer opened the door on the driver’s side.
A high-level police official told InSight Crime that gang members were behind the unsuccessful attack, and that police were the intended target. The official said police do not know for certain who was responsible. However, an investigator told La Prensa Grafica that members of the Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS13) are suspected of having planted the grenade. The MS13 is reportedly the principal gang operating in the area where the car was found.
El Salvador’s Security Minister, Benito Lara, said authorities will investigate if the attempt to set off a grenade inside a car qualifies as an act of terrorism, according to La Prensa Grafica.
InSight Crime Analysis
If what Salvadoran police are asserting is correct, the failed grenade attack would point to a new level of hostility between gangs and security forces. Security Minister Lara noted it could be part of the gang’s new modus operandi.
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Since the breakdown of El Salvador’s gang truce in early 2014, the Barrio 18 and MS13 — El Salvador’s principal street gangs — have ratcheted up the number of attacks on police and military officials. Police officials have responded aggressively by telling officers to shoot at criminals “with complete confidence” and by asserting “we’re at war” with gangs.
The heightened conflict between gangs and security forces is part of surging homicide levels in El Salvador. According to La Prensa Grafica, May was the country’s most violent month since the end of the country’s civil war in 1992.