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As gang violence hits El Salvador, a new wave of disappearances

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Mr. Ticas attributes the killings to criminal groups, and notes the extreme cruelty of some of the killings, with one man appearing to have been buried alive. According to the scientist, some 95 percent of the bodies in these mass graves are aged under 17, and a majority are women.

El Faro has produced a photo essay which catalogues the spaces vacated by these missing people, many of them teenagers, and the stories told by their relatives point towards a gaping hole in knowledge about what happened to the victims. In some cases, relatives point to local branches of gangs like the Barrio 18 (M-18) and Marasalvatrucha 13 (MS-13), while in many they are at a loss to explain what happened to the victim, who simply left the house one day and did not return.

El Salvador had one of the highest murder rates in the world, at 64 per 100,000 according to some measures, and much of this is driven by gang violence.

The following are InSight Crime’s translations of a selection of the texts accompanying El Faro’s photo essay, selected for their mention of criminal gangs.

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