Hondurans under the age of 23 are being murdered at the rate of 76 a month, compared with 45 youth homicides monthly in 1998, the Honduras branch of Covenant House says in a report released here Thursday.

More than a third of the roughly 8,000 slayings of children and youth in Honduras over the past 15 years have taken place since Jan. 27, 2010, when current President Porfirio Lobo took office, the organization said.

Eighty-seven percent of the 911 people under 23 slain in 2012 were killed with firearms, Covenant House said.

The report describes a "pattern of executions" in which victims' bodies bear signs of torture and gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

Victims are also discovered with their "hands and feet bound, wrapped in sheets, heads wrapped in plastic bags with adhesive tape, dismembered bodies placed in bags," the document notes.

Honduras experienced 92 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2011, according to a U.N. study, one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Violence escalated sharply in the Central American nation in the wake of the June 2009 coup that ousted President Mel Zelaya, as political strife added to the carnage wrought by criminal gangs.

EFE