March 3, 2016 / 11:55 PM / 2 years ago

Gangs blamed for 11 deaths in rural El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Eight workers from an electric company and three other people were found dead on Thursday in a rural part of El Salvador and authorities said they were likely killed by gang members.

An army helicopter lands near a crime scene where eight electrical power company workers and three farmers went missing, in the village of Joya de Ceren in San Juan Opico, El Salvador March 3, 2016. The 11 people were found dead, and are believed to have been killed by gang members, according to police. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

The small, impoverished Central American state ranks among the world’s most murderous countries, with criminal gangs controlling chunks of territory and threatening intruders with death.

The workers, contractors doing maintenance work for the EDESAL electric firm, were kidnapped and killed in a desolate spot in the San Juan Opico municipality, 27 miles (43 km) from the capital, police said.

Officials are working to determine the exact cause of the murders, police director Howard Cotto told reporters.

The attorney general’s office also said three agricultural workers were found murdered at a site nearby.

Violence has risen steadily in El Salvador since a 2012 truce between two main gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and its rival Barrio 18, began unraveling in 2014. Last year was the most violent on record, with a 70 percent increase in murders compared to 2014.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria, writing by Anna Yukhananov

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