Honduras troops join fight against violent crime

Honduran troops at a checkpoint in the capital, Tegucigalpa. The military operation will be expanded to other parts of the country

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The government of Honduras has deployed hundreds of troops in the main cities to combat a wave of criminal violence.

Joint patrols of soldiers and police have been sent into areas dominated by criminal gangs.

Honduras has the world's highest murder rate, according to the UN, with much of the killing linked to drug-trafficking.

On Monday President Porfirio Lobo sacked his top police commanders after four officers accused of murder were released and went into hiding.

The military deployment, dubbed "Operation Lightning", began in the capital Tegucigalpa and the northern city of San Pedro Sula.

Soldiers and counter-insurgency police units set up road blocks while helicopters patrolled overhead.

President Lobo said the aim was to "guarantee the presence of the authorities in the most conflict-ridden areas".

He vowed to "do everything possible within the law to reduce the impunity that makes us all indignant".

Outrage

The sacking of the police commanders on Monday followed the release of four officers accused of killing two students.

Their release has caused public outrage in Honduras, which is suffering soaring levels of violent crime.

A recent UN report found the country had the highest rate in the world in 2010, with 82 killings per 100,000 inhabitants - an average of 20 murders a day.

Honduras is a major transit point for cocaine smuggling from South America north through Mexico to the US, and much of the violence is linked to drugs gangs.

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