A police inspector was murdered Thursday in a poor neighborhood on the south side of Guatemala City by hitmen suspected of belonging to a street gang, the National Civilian Police, or PNC, said.

Adonias Argueta Navarro was killed outside his residence in Boca del Monte by hitmen "who set a trap," a PNC spokesman told reporters.

The 42-year-old Argueta Navarro received a call on his cell phone from a person claiming that the officer's daughters had been involved in a traffic accident and needed help, the PNC spokesman said.

The inspector rushed out of his residence and was gunned down by the hitmen, who did not utter a word before opening fire.

The Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha street gangs operate in the area, carrying out contract hits and running extortion rackets.

Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha were originally formed by Salvadorans.

Mara Salvatrucha is a criminal organization that evolved on the streets of Los Angeles during the 1980s, with most of its members young Salvadorans whose parents fled their nation's erstwhile civil war for the United States.

Because many of the gang members were born in El Salvador, they were subject to deportation when rounded up during immigration crackdowns in California in the 1990s.

Sent "home" to a land they barely knew, they formed gangs that spread throughout El Salvador and to neighboring countries in Central America, where membership is now counted in the tens, or even hundreds of thousands, and gang members are engaged in murder, drug dealing, kidnapping and people smuggling.

In addition to those activities, gang members are blamed throughout Central America for a spike in rapes and robberies, and for running protection rackets to extort "taxes" from bus companies and owners of small businesses. EFE