SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ One woman was found hanging by a rope. Another was thrown down a well. A third woman and four children were dumped in a water tank.

Firefighters removed the decomposing bodies of seven family members from their blood-splattered home Tuesday and police said they had no clues to a motive or suspects in the slayings.

The victims, who ranged in age from 2 to 70, were apparently killed last weekend. The grisly crime shocked this Central American nation, which has been suffering a crime epidemic since the end of its civil war in 1992.

``This was a sadistic and savage act ... and particularly horrific because it involved children,'' National Civil Police spokesman Rodrigo Avila said. ``Words cannot describe something so terrible.''

The victims were all members of the Gaytan family. The women were 35, 55 and 70 years old; the children were 2, 6, 11 and 12.

Their home, five miles east of the capital, is in a poor neighborhood plagued by gang violence and pocked by graffiti.

A neighbor, who refused to give her name out of fear, told The Associated Press that she had heard nothing unusual over the weekend but hadn't seen anyone leave the house since Friday.

Police and firefighters, their faces covered with bandannas against the stench, used ropes Tuesday to haul the bodies of one woman and four children from the underground water tank.

A crowd gathered as the victims were carried out in black plastic bags.

``We are going to punish those responsible and we will ask for the most severe punishment possible,'' Avila vowed, visibly upset. Autopsies were planned.

For the last three years, El Salvador has been awash in crime _ with bandits, youth gangs and other criminals virtually out of control. The military estimates that 260,000 weapons are still in circulation from the 12-year civil war that killed 70,000 people.