House-by-house searches for gang members continue as President Nayib Bukele’s government declared a state of emergency to combat criminal groups earlier this year.
More than 1,000 soldiers have surrounded a district in El Salvador’s capital as part of President Nayib Bukele’s war on gangs, the second such operation this month in the Central American country.
“As of this morning, the Tutunichapa district in San Salvador is totally surrounded,” Bukele posted on Twitter on Saturday.
Authorities in Tutunichapa, a populous district of San Salvador, reported the first six arrests of “delinquents” without specifying whether they were accused of being gang members or drug traffickers, according to the presidential palace.
“All terrorists, drug traffickers and gang members will be removed” from the area, Bukele said in another tweet, adding that until recently it was a “bastion of crime.”
“Honest citizens have nothing to fear and can continue to live their lives normally,” he wrote.
Images released on Saturday by the office of the president showed heavily armed soldiers entering the Tutunichapa.
El Salvadoran city surrounded by 10,000 troops amid crackdown on gangs
Earlier this month Bukele, who has declared a state of emergency to quash gang violence, sent 8,500 soldiers and 1,500 police officers to surround Soyapango, the country’s third largest city, with a population of nearly a quarter million.
The president had announced last month a plan to use troops to surround cities while house-by-house searches are conducted for gang members. Soyapango was first on the list.
The siege there has seen armoured military vehicles, some with artillery, carrying out constant patrols while heavily armed police search houses and people as they leave their neighbourhoods, as well as random searches of public transport.
As of December 15, some 500 suspected gang members had been arrested in Soyapango, according to the latest government figures.
Almost 60,000 suspected gang members have been arrested since the launch of the state of emergency in March.
READ MORE: NGOs report ‘widespread’ violations in El Salvador’s war against gangs
Desde esta mañana, la comunidad Tutunichapa, en San Salvador, está totalmente cercada.
Sin remover un solo elemento del cerco de Soyapango, más de 1,000 soldados y 130 agentes de la Policía, extraerán a los criminales que aún quedan en esta comunidad, famosa por el narcotráfico. pic.twitter.com/TPr6NFwr6p
— Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) December 24, 2022