Latin America & Caribbean

Five Honduran youth gang members killed in jail fight

Bladed weapons lie on the ground outside the maximum security prison in Tamara on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa on 25 February, 2014
Image caption Raids in Honduran jails routinely uncover hundreds of weapons used in deadly prison fights

Five youths have been killed in a gang fight in a prison in Honduras.

Officials said the five, all of them under 18, belonged to the M18 street gang and were attacked by members of the rival Mara Salvatrucha gang.

The fight happened in El Carmen jail in San Pedro Sula.

Last year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accused Honduras of giving up on rehabilitating criminals and leaving prisons to be controlled by their inmates.

Overcrowded and underfunded

Police said armed members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang threatened the guards and forced their way at gunpoint into the area where M18 gang members are held.

Image caption Many Honduran prisons are controlled by gangs, which mark their territory with graffiti

They then opened fire, killing five and injuring one. Neighbours reported hearing an explosion, but police denied grenades had been used in the gang fight.

There are conflicting reports on whether the assailants were also inmates or whether they had forced their way in from the outside.

Officials said three of the alleged assailants had been arrested.

Honduran prisons are notoriously overcrowded, understaffed and wracked by violence.

In February 2012, some 360 prisoners died in a fire in Comayagua prison north of Tegucigalpa.

Non-governmental organisations have urged the government to improve its prison system but little has been done since the deadly fire.

San Pedro Sula has the world's highest homicide rate for any city not in a warzone, according to United Nations figures.

The government says it is overwhelmed by the sheer number of people awaiting trial, or already sentenced.

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