TONACATEPEQUE, El Salvador – Police said Wednesday they found the remains of what they believe to be eight to 10 gang victims at the bottom of a well outside El Salvador's capital.
Five detectives were lowered about 100 feet into the well, where they found skulls, bones, hair and possibly the remains of a child, said federal homicide investigator Israel Antonio Ticas.
Police believe the victims were killed by Mara Salvatrucha gang members, about two dozen of whom operate in and around Tonacatepeque, outside San Salvador. The victims appear to have been stabbed to death and then tossed into the well over the past two years, Ticas said.
Ticas said authorities are trying to confirm how many bodies the bones correspond to, but they believe they represent eight to 10 victims.
Families searching for missing loved ones went to the scene Wednesday as detectives carefully extracted the remains from the well.
"Here everyone is afraid of gangs," said a woman who asked not to be identified for fear of gang reprisal. "They've killed two of my sons just because they worked. No one is safe."
Authorities said it will take at least two weeks to extract all the remains, which forensics specialists will attempt to identify through DNA testing.
El Salvador has struggled to control gang violence. The country has more than 16,000 gang members, many of whom were deported from the United States after serving jail terms there, according to police.