Police mount guard to secure battleground among three drug gangs

School children went to classes Wednesday under police guard in a notorious section of Alajuela.

The area, called El Infiernillo, was the scene of a war among three gangs Tuesday that culminated with battles with police. The three gangs are trying to assert dominance over the area, part of Barrio San José, for drug sales and other illegal activities.

Some residents said they have been sleeping in a bath tub for fear of stray bullets.

After gunfire broke out Tuesday morning, parents quickly removed their children from the local Escuela de Santa Rita after police secured the area Wednesday.  Juan José Andrade Morales, the head of the Fuerza Pública, met with public school officials to map out a strategy to safeguard youngsters.

That meant stationing heavily armed officers around the school and along routes children take.

At one point there were some 50 heavily armed police officers in the area.

Officials noted that the Alajuela force cannot dedicate half of its strength to this small area, so police are working with judicial agents to break up the gangs. The adult leaders are well known. Many of the gang members are juveniles.

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