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'We fear soldiers more than gangsters': El Salvador's 'iron fist' policy turns deadly

State security forces have turned the war on gangs into an extrajudicial siege in Distrito Italia, where young men are being killed indiscriminately with impunity

A group of teenage boys were celebrating a birthday with cake and cold beers, larking around and uploading selfies to Facebook. It should have been an ordinary scene played out among old friends, but in El Salvador, these are anything but ordinary times.

Shortly before 11pm, soldiers with rifles quietly descended from the surrounding hills and cornered the youngsters in an alleyway. Most of the teens were were thrown face-down on the ground – but two boys ran, and the soldiers gave chase.

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