Dec. 18 (UPI) -- El Salvador police arrested dozens of suspected members of the country's most dangerous gangs during coordinated raids Tuesday, officials said.
Police captured 37 suspected MS (Mara Salvatrucha) members early Tuesday through registrations and home searches in different municipalities, the prosecutor's office in San Salvador said. Local media reported high numbers of arrests, with diverse counts.
The prosecutor's office said dozens of arrests were made through coordinated, simultaneous operations, all involving alleged MS gang members and crimes including homicide, extortion, drug trafficking, kidnapping, theft and terrorism.
A total of 227 arrest warrants were issued and directed against the MS and Barrio 18 gangs as part of the operation, Salvadoran newspaper El Mundo reported. Five different clans belonging to the two gangs were targeted, it said.
The arrest warrants are associated with 90 homicides, 47 cases of extortion and four kidnappings. Three other cases involved conspiracy to commit homicide and drug trafficking.
The gangs operated in the regions of Santa Ana, La Libertad, San Vicente, Cuscatlan, Cabanas, San Miguel and Morazan, El Mundo's report said.
One-hundred people were arrested, including the 37 cited by the prosecutor and others that resulted from operations in other regions, ElSalvador.com reported. El Salvador saw a murder rate of 103 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015, but that figure fell to 60 per 100,000 last year, the report noted.
The MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs have some 600 clans, or subgroups, throughout El Salvador. The country's government blames the two groups for most of the violence in the Central American country.
MS 13 originated in Los Angeles in the 1970s and later spread to other parts of the world -- Central and North America and Europe, with some members operating in Italy and Spain. In the U.S., the group's largest presence outside California is in Texas, and members are also found in several eastern states from Georgia to New York.
The gang is said to have been originally created by undocumented immigrants who wanted to protect themselves from other gangs in Los Angeles. It gained strength during the 1990s after it added some troops who were trained by the United States military during the civil war in El Salvador.
U.S. deportations of Salvadorans in recent decades contributed to the strengthening in Central America. Many of the migrants leaving Central America now do so because of the widespread violence.