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Two killed in attack on Guatemalan police

  • Story Highlights
  • Assault on a national police patrol kills two officers and wounds one, authorities say
  • Seven others have died in 10 attacks since early September
  • Attacks reportedly related to transfer of dangerous inmates to high-security prison
  • Gangs are "trying to show strength through force," expert says
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GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (CNN) -- Lethal assaults on police and prison guards in Guatemala continued over the weekend, with an attack on a national police patrol that killed two officers and left one wounded, authorities said.

Five suspects were arrested in Sunday's attack, officials said.

Authorities said there have been 10 other attacks since early September, leaving seven dead and eight wounded. The assaults are related to the transfer of some of the nation's most dangerous inmates to a new high-security prison called Fraijanes 2, Interior Minister Raul Velasquez was quoted as saying last month.

Samuel Logan, an expert on Latin American gangs, said two main criminal elements are in Guatemala: drug cartels that deal in large-scale exportation and street gangs that sell drugs at the retail level and are involved in other crimes such as robbery and extortion.

When those criminals get arrested, they continue their activities on the inside, said Fernando Carrera Castro, director of the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies in Guatemala City.

"The prisons, in general, are centers of corruption," Carrera said in a recent interview. "From inside prison, they direct kidnappings, extortion, drug trafficking."

The attacks on authorities results from efforts to weed out corruption in the nation's prisons. Officials have been clamping down on what goods inmates can receive and the use of cell phones within prison walls. They also are transferring some top-level criminals to high-security prisons.

"What happened is a reaction from gangs who want control of the prisons," Carrera said. "They're trying to show strength through force -- to generate fear."

According to Guatemalan officials, coordinated attacks have occurred on at least three occasions in recent weeks:

  • A national police officer was killed in one of two attacks October 10. Six officials were wounded that day, three in each assault.
  • National police came under attack five times on October 8, leaving two dead and two wounded.
  • Four officials were killed in a five-hour period in three assaults on September 7.
  • Journalist Alexia Rios contributed to this report.

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