SAN SALVADOR —
Worsening gang violence led to a surge in homicides in the first two months of 2016 in El Salvador, which last year became a contender to be the world's most murderous country, official police data showed on Wednesday.
Murders in the small, impoverished Central American nation jumped in January and February by 117.6 percent from the 643 reported in the same period of 2015, according to figures released by police officials at a news conference.
"In these two months we have a national average of 23.3 homicides [a day] which continues to be a major challenge for police operations," Howard Cotto, director of national police in El Salvador, told reporters.
Homicides in the country of some 6.4 million people jumped about 70 percent last year, pushing the death toll to its highest level since the end of a 1980-1992 civil war.
Violence has risen steadily in El Salvador since a 2012 truce between two main gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and its rival Barrio 18, began unraveling in 2014.