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El Salvador clandestine cemetery investigated as possible femicide mass grave

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SANSALVADOR (Reuters) – El Salvador officials said on Thursday they were excavating a clandestine cemetery containing as many as 40 bodies, most of them believed to be women, after it was discovered at the house of a former police officer.

Exhuming the bodies could take another month, authorities said. The remains of at least 24 people had been recovered so far at the house in the municipality of Chalchuapa, about 48 miles (78 kilometers) northwest of capital San Salvador.

At least 10 people are facing charges in relation to the cemetery, according to the office of the attorney general, including a former police officer, Hugo Ernesto Osorio Chavez, whose home is at the same site as the clandestine cemetery.

Dozens of people who believed their missing relatives could be among the bodies had gathered outside the house, which was guarded by a heavy police presence.

The incident has brought the issue of femicides into focus in the country of 6.7 million, which recorded 70 incidents of the crime last year. There were 111 femicides in 2019, police data showed.

Violence against women in Latin America, including femicides, worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, according to aid groups.

In Mexico this week, a 72-year-old man was arrested as an alleged serial killer of women, local media reported, after the remains of several people were found at his home in the State of Mexico, as part of an investigation into the death of a 36-year-old woman.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; writing by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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