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Salvadoran Police Hunt for Death Squad

July 22, 1995

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Police were searching an eastern province Saturday for members of a death squad believed to be killing vagrants and suspected criminals.

At least a dozen people suspected of involvement with the Black Shadow group in San Miguel province, said police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. They did not give details of the operation.

More than 20 people are believed to have been killed by Black Shadow since it began its rampage last December in San Miguel, 65 miles east of the capital, San Salvador.

The group began as a response to a crime wave sweeping El Salvador. San Miguel Gov. Miguel Bettaglio has been quoted as saying that Black Shadow is ``a necessary evil″ to protect people from criminals.

A crackdown on the group began Thursday, and police have arrested 13 civilians and three police officers suspected of involvement. Those arrested reportedly include a police deputy inspector, a corporal, an Evangelical minister and a businessman.

The businessman, Jose Wilfredo Salgado, denied any connection to Black Shadow.

``It’s absurd madness,″ he said.

The newspaper La Prensa Grafica quoted an unnamed police investigator as saying the squad appears to have links with a highly placed government official, whom it did not identify.

Crime has risen in this tiny Central American nation since a 12-year civil war between a succession of rightist governments and leftist guerrillas ended three years ago.

The fighting killed more than 75,000 people and left the economy in shambles. During the war, rightist death squads linked to the military allegedly killed thousands of suspected leftist sympathizers.

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