El Salvador is racked by drug-fuelled violence, with entire city neighbourhoods controlled by powerful gangs known as 'maras'. The murder rate has risen steadily since 2014 when a truce between the country's two main gangs – Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) – began to fall apart.

El Salvador gangs
A forensic technician and police officers carry the body of a woman killed by alleged gang members in Apopa, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on 22 June 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A body lies on a road after it was found by police patrolling the area in Ayutuxtepeque, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on 22 June 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
Ines Guevara's dead body is seen at a car wash in San Salvador, on 24 September 2015. She was shot dead while playing with a ball with colleagues during a break, according to local mediaJose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A ball is lies on top of police tape at a crime scene where Ines Guevara was shot dead at a car wash in San SalvadorJose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
The feet of a dead man are seen underneath a tree at a crime scene in San Salvador, on 26 September 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters

Last year was the most violent on record, with a 70% increase in murders from the previous year. The number of homicides reached an estimated 6,650 in 2015, up from 3,912 the year before, said Miguel Fortin Magana, former director of the National Forensics Institute of El Salvador. "It's a real pandemic," he admitted.

The homicide rate is more than 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, making the country of 6.4 million among the most violent in the world, according to Insight Crime, a foundation that analyses organised crime. In August 2015 alone, 907 murders were recorded across the country in the highest monthly toll since the 1980-1992 civil war.

El Salvador gangs
The dead body of Antonio Jimenez Patrix lies on the floor after he was killed at the Central Market in San Salvador, on 17 July 2015. Patrix was working for a man who owns a stall selling bananas at the market. The owner refused to pay extortion money and Patrix, who was selling the bananas on behalf of the owner, was shot dead, according to local mediaJose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
Forensic technicians and police officers remove the dead body of Miguel Angel Acevedo at La Tiendona market on 2 July 2015. Acevedo was killed by suspected gang members as he was selling potatoesJose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
Market traders withdraw their produce as police investigators secure a crime scene at La Tiendona market, one of the most violent places in San Salvador, according to local mediaJose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A plain-clothes police officer stands guard at La Tiendona Market, where a man was shot dead on 2 July 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A police officer detains a woman on suspicion of collaborating with the 18th street gang during a "Safe House" operation in the Concepcion neighbourhood of San Salvador, on 2 July 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
Suspects are detained after a police officer and his son were killed at a basketball court by alleged members of the 18th Street gang in Soyapango, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on 6 July 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
Family members react as forensic technicians and police officers retrieve the dead body of Roberta Urbina from her house after she was killed by alleged gang members at her home in Cuscatancingo, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on 24 June 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A woman covers up the bloody spot where her nephew Julio Eduardo Henriquez was killed by suspected 18th street gang members in the Lomas de Candelaria neighbourhood of San Marcos, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on 14 September 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A man watches as forensic technicians and police officers work at a crime scene where the dead body of his father was found, in Panchimalco, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on 22 June 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
Police officers search for gang members after a unit on patrol was attacked in a low-income neighbourhood in San Salvador, on 14 July 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A man carries the belongings of his brother Julio Ernesto Perez, who was shot dead, in Huizucar on the outskirts of El Salvador, on 17 September 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A man looks as forensic technicians and police officers work at a crime scene where a pastor named David Ayala was shot dead in San Salvador, on 17 September 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
Members of the Green Cross put the dead body of a man onto a stretcher after retrieving it from the banks of the Acelhuate river in Ciudad Delgado, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on 21 July 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
People wait to be transported to a detention facility after they were detained on suspicion of being collaborators with a street gang, during a night raid in Apopa, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on September 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A police officer carries an umbrella while working at a crime scene where a man and his son were shot dead in their car in Ayutuxtepeque, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on 25 September 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A boy plays with a toy gun in the Concepcion neighbourhood of San Salvador, on 2 July 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A police officer takes down yellow police tape at a crime scene in Soyapango, on the outskirts of San Salvador, on 26 September 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters

As he finished a 24-hour in which he examined more than a dozen corpses, William Hernandez, a coroner at the National Forensics Institute, said he has never dealt with so many violent deaths nor seen such vicious attacks. "There have always been violent deaths, but not like now. The increase has been incredible," he said. "If you had one or two shots before, it's now between 15 and 30. The last body I examined had 42 entry and exit wounds."

El Salvador gangs
A forensic technician makes notes while performing an autopsy on a crime victim at the morgue of the Forensic Institute in San Salvador, on 7 July 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
The remains of an unidentified person are arranged on a table at the forensic anthropology department of the Forensic Institute in San Salvador, on 21 July 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
Clothes related to homicide cases are kept in a drying machine to be examined by forensic technicians at the Forensic Institute in San Salvador, on 22 June 2015Jose Cabezas/Reuters

In 2015, 62 police and 24 members of the armed forces died in clashes with the gangs. The violence has also prompted women and children to emigrate to the United States. The price of the violence is not only paid in the loss of life. High levels of violence and insecurity cost the Salvadoran state $2.85bn (£2bn) in 2014, or 11% of the country's GDP, said Oscar Cabrera, president of the country's central bank. "That cost is too high," he said. "That is [money] you could devote to investment, schools, infrastructure projects."