El Salvador prosecutor accuses police and soldiers of executing street gang members

El Salvador's human rights prosecutor said Monday that police and soldiers used excessive force or executed presumed street gang members during two supposed confrontations in 2015.

The findings do not charge specific officers, but rather conclude that events that once were depicted as shootouts in fact may have involved executions.

The Salvadoran government has embarked on a tough crackdown on gangs, which have in turn launched attacks on police and military officers, even when they are off duty.

Human rights prosecutor David Morales said "there is serious evidence that government agents acted outside the law" in the two events.

One case involved the deaths of eight people in March 2015 at a ranch supposedly taken over by gang members. Only one officer was slightly wounded.

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The other case occurred in August 2015, when five gang members died in a supposed shootout with security forces, none of whom were injured.

Morales said there was "serious, objective, clear evidence that points to executions" of the suspects in both cases.

In many cases, brain swelling was found on the corpses, despite the fact they also had wounds to vital organs that would have killed them quickly.

Morales said "the government cannot act as bad or worse than the criminals."

Defense Minister David Munguia Payes said that "there may be violations of human rights, we are not denying it. We are investigating it."

The director of the country's National Police, Howard Cotto, said "I want to emphasize that if at any moment there was some irregularity of any type, we are always willing to cooperate in the investigation with the prosecutors' office."

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