SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — A powerful bomb was found in a car parked near El Salvador's security ministry, but experts were able to deactivate it, the country's defense minister said Saturday.
Gen. David Munguia Payes said the bomb contained plastic explosives and would have sprayed glass shards if it had exploded.
The Justice and Security Ministry earlier issued a statement saying that agents found the bomb Friday in a car that had been reported stolen. They were apparently acting on an anonymous tip.
It's not clear who left the device, but a crackdown on gangs, and battles among the gangs themselves, have led to hundreds of deaths this year in the country of 6 million people.
The U.S. Embassy issued a warning that the discovery "is evidence of a further escalation in the level of violence" in El Salvador, though it said it is not aware of any threats aimed directly at U.S. citizens.
Meanwhile, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren on Saturday praised a local Supreme Court ruling declaring the gangs known as maras terrorists.
"Now the persecution of crime will be more effective, the gangs now are terrorists and all the force of the law will be applied against them." He said it would also make it easier to prosecute those who collaborate with the gangs.
The court said that "leaders, members, collaborators, apologists and financiers" of the gangs would fall under the definition of terrorist.
Sanchez Ceren urged the country's legislature to pass a law that would provide legal opportunities for those who want to abandon the gangs.