Authorities in Honduras have launched an El Salvador-style crackdown and arrested a suspect in a pool hall shooting on Saturday that killed 11 people.

Police said they were investigating the possibility the pool hall shooting could be revenge for last week’s gang-related massacre of 46 female inmates, the worst atrocity at a women’s prison in recent memory.

The Honduran government has vowed to crack down on gang violence and put curfews in place.

On Monday, the military police – who have taken charge of the nation’s prisons – posted photos of male inmates forced to sit in rows, spread-legged and touching, during a raid to seize contraband in one prison.

Such tactics – with inmates clad only in shorts, their heads bowed on to the backs of the men in front of them – were made famous last year by the Salvadorian president, Nayib Bukele, during his crackdown on gangs. Bukele’s harsh tactics have succeeded in weakening organized crime, but at a high cost to human rights.

The military police said they found ammunition, guns and grenades during the search of a men’s prison in Tamara, the same town where the women’s prison massacre occurred.

The massacre at the women’s prison in Tamara, north-east of Honduras’s capital, outraged the country and sparked the raids, curfews and crackdown.

In that massacre, female inmates belonging to the Barrio 18 street gang smuggled in guns, machetes and a flammable liquid. They subdued guards and burst into cellblocks housing members of a rival gang. They sprayed the victims with gunfire, hacked to death others and then locked their cells and set the victims on fire.

While Saturday’s killings at a pool hall and in the city of Choloma, in Cortés province, happened far to the north of Tamara, the two events could be related, according to the police.

The national police commissioner, Miguel Pérez Suazo, said authorities have detained one suspect in the pool hall killings and were looking for others.

“We do not rule out these crimes could be some sort of revenge for what happened in the women’s prison,” Pérez Suazo said. Choloma is reputed to be the turf of the Barrio 18 gang, which would make it a logical place to target their members.

But he said “we also do no rule out that it could have been some type of revenge by criminals against civilians”.

The Honduran president, Xiomara Castro, has put the military police in charge of the country’s poorly run prisons and given them a year to train new guards.

She also announced security measures including curfews in the Choloma area, as well as “raids, captures and checkpoints 24 hours a day”. The curfew in Choloma will run from 9pm until 4am The curfew in the nearby city of San Pedro Sula will begin on 4 July.


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