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El Salvador: Over 20 Percent Drop in Homicides But Still Among Deadliest

by Associated Press / / Source: Associated Press
People observe the remains of their relatives as they participate in a ceremony to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the El Mozote massacre in El Mozote, El Salvador, December 10, 2016. JOSE CABEZAS / Reuters

El Salvador's national police director says homicides dropped more than 20 percent in 2016, though the rate of 81.2 for every 100,000 residents kept the Central American country among the world's deadliest.

Commissioner Howard Cotto said at a news conference Monday that there were at least 5,278 killings in 2016, down from 6,665 in 2015, when the homicide rate hit 104 per 100,000 residents.

The country has been fighting to retake territory from its powerful street gangs.

RELATED: El Salvador: 'Gang Pastor' Alleged to be Organized Crime Financier

Criminologist Ricardo Sosa called it an "important achievement" and noted that it was really only nine months since the government changed its strategy.

The government isolated imprisoned gang leaders and employed the military to take on the gangs. Cotto said security forces killed 603 alleged criminals who attacked them.

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