At least three presumed gang members died Sunday in a shootout with police officers in northern Honduras, the head of the National Inter-institutional Security Force, or Fusina, German Alfaro, said.

Alfaro told reporters that the incident, in which four police officers were wounded, occurred early Sunday morning in the populous Rivera Hernandez sector near San Pedro Sula, the country's second-largest city.

Alfaro said that the alleged gang members belonged to the Mara 18 gang and, according to intelligence information gathered by security forces, along with tips furnished by citizens, they were intending to murder about 20 people in the area.

The shootout erupted when the security forces confronted the gang members in an attempt to prevent the massacre.

Alfaro said that the gang members had gathered in the city sector known as La Planeta, from where they were in the process of deploying into the Callejas neighborhood in four vehicles equipped with assorted weaponry and wearing police uniforms.

Upon finding themselves trapped by the police, the gang members broke into a house and barricaded themselves in one of the rooms.

The police waited until dawn broke to raid the home, where they captured more than a dozen gang members, killed three and seized a large quantity of weapons and ammunition, Alfaro said.

Honduras is in the midst of an ongoing crime wave that takes an average of 15 lives per day, according to government figures.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who took office on Jan. 27, has said that he will restore peace and security to the country and will pursue criminals, drug traffickers and those involved in organized crime and bring them to justice. EFE