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Tattooed killers in coronavirus face masks pictured crammed into hellhole jail

Heavily tattooed gangsters have been pictured crammed into tiny cells in the hellish jails of El Salvador.

The Central American country is, like many others, battling to contain the coronavirus pandemic, but also has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Snaps from prisons show killers and ganglords wearing coronavirus face masks as they sit handcuffed next to each other.

Many are members of the notorious drug cartels MS-13 and Barrio 18, responsible for scores of brutal murders.

They were pictured in overcrowded jails as part of an arranged visit by the country's Director of the General Directorate of Penal Centres.

El Salvador's high murder rate has dropped by more than 50% in the past few years, but this has led to the nation's jails becoming dangerously packed.

The country's hyper-violent gangs are infamous for their reign of terror in Southern California, where they carried out a series of murders related to the drug trade.

Authorities from the General Directorate of Penal Centres visited three prisons to check on conditions and carry out searches as the country battles the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Salvadorean President Nayib Bukele has poured scorn on the virus' potential to spread like wildfire inside his country's packed jails.

These latest pictures come several months after a furious Bukele promised to make the gangsters responsible for ordering dozens of killings regret their bloodshed.

Bukele shared photos of nearly naked criminals, many with gang tattoos, being marched into prison yards and made to sit so close they were touching.

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He bragged on Twitter: "They won't be able to see outside the cell anymore.

"This will keep them from communicating with signs in the hall. They will be inside, in the dark with their friends from the other gang."

Ricardo Sosa, a criminologist and gang expert, said the president's measures seemed "appropriate".

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He explained that now "the gangsters will have to adapt, learn to live packed together, get along with their enemies".

But, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed concern and urged the government to "guarantee the life and safety of the imprisoned".

Justice and Security Minister Rogelio Rivas dismissed these claims, noting that the Supreme Court had previously declared the gangs as terrorists.

"They are a threat to state security and we're going to fight them with all force to protect Salvadorans' lives."

In April, hundreds of prisoners in El Salvador were pictured crammed together during a crackdown on gangs in the country.

It came as the president ordered a 24-hour lockdown of all prisons holding gang members.

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