updated 8/1/2005 8:42:31 AM ET 2005-08-01T12:42:31

A 13-year-old gang member and his teenage bodyguard have been arrested in the killing of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent during an apparent bungled robbery, a Honduran official said Sunday.

DEA Special Agent Timothy Markey was shot to death on Friday while on vacation visiting a popular Roman Catholic shrine in Tegucigalpa.

The suspects were identified as Erlan Colindres, who has escaped three times from correctional centers, and his 13-year-old bodyguard Manuel Romero. Police described both as seasoned gang members.

“They are dangerous offenders, despite their young ages,” Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez said Sunday.

Honduran authorities are struggling to combat high rates of violent crime, much of it involving ruthless youth gangs, known as “maras,” concentrated in urban areas.

The Mara Salvatrucha and rival Mara 18 have about 100,000 members and control poor neighborhoods in Honduras’ principal cities using violence, threats and extortion.

On a two-day break in the Honduran capital, Markey took a cab from his hotel to visit the Basilica of Suyapa, a shrine to the country’s patron saint, where he was confronted by two assailants and shot twice, according to testimony from his taxi driver.

Honduran authorities said the U.S. agent had been training Honduran police involved in drug interdiction efforts.

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