El Mozote Massacre

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Event.png El Mozote Massacre (war crime,  murder) Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
The memorial at el Mozote
LocationEl Mozote,  El Salvador
Type• Shooting
• grenades
• decapitation

The El Mozote Massacre took place in and around the village of el Mozote, in Morazán Department, El Salvador, on December 11, 1981 when the Salvadoran Army killed more than 800 civilians during the Salvadoran Civil War[1][2].


In 1981, various left-wing guerrilla groups coalesced into the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front to battle El Salvador's fascist military dictatorship, the Revolutionary Government Junta of El Salvador.

Prior to the massacre, unlike many villages in the area, el Mozote had a reputation for neutrality. While many of its neighbors were largely Catholic, and therefore often influenced by liberation theology and sympathetic to the guerrillas, el Mozote was largely Evangelical Protestant. The village had sold guerrillas some supplies but was also "a place where the guerrillas had learned not to look for recruits".[3]

Prior to the massacre, the town's wealthiest man, Marcos Díaz, had gathered the citizens to warn them that the army would soon pass through the area in a counterinsurgency operation, but he had been assured that the town's residents would not be harmed if they remained in place. Concerned that fleeing the town would cause them to be mistaken for guerrillas, the townspeople chose to stay and extended an offer of protection to peasants from the surrounding area, who soon flooded the town.[4]

December 10

On the afternoon of December 10, 1981, units of the Salvadoran army's Atlacatl Battalion, which was created in 1980 at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas[5], arrived at the remote village of el Mozote after a clash with guerrillas in the vicinity.[6]] The Atlacatl was a "Rapid Deployment Infantry Battalion" specially trained for [[counter-insurgency|counter-insurgency warfare]. It was the first unit of its kind in the Salvadoran armed forces and was trained by United States military advisors.[7] Its mission, Operación Rescate ("Operation Rescue"), was to eliminate the rebel presence in a small region of northern Morazán where the FMLN had two camps and a training center.

December 11 and 12

Early the next morning, the soldiers reassembled the entire village in the square. They separated the men from the women and children and locked them in separate groups in the church, the convent, and various houses.[8]

During the morning, they proceeded to interrogate, torture, and execute the men in several locations.[10] Around noon, they began taking the women and older girls in groups, separating them from their children and murdering them with machine guns after raping them.[9] Girls as young as 10 were raped, and soldiers were reportedly heard bragging how they especially liked the 12-year-old girls.[10] Finally, they killed the children at first by slitting their throats, and later by hanging them from trees; one child killed in this manner was reportedly two years old.[11] After killing the entire population, the soldiers set fire to the buildings.

The soldiers remained in el Mozote that night but, the next day, went to the village of Los Toriles and carried out a further massacre. Men, women, and children were taken from their homes, lined up, robbed, and shot, and their homes then set ablaze.[12]

News of the massacre first appeared in the world media on January 27, 1982, in reports published by The New York Times[13] and The Washington Post. Raymond Bonner wrote in the Times of seeing "the charred skulls and bones of dozens of bodies buried under burned-out roofs, beams, and shattered tiles".[14] The villagers gave Bonner a list of 733 names, mostly children, women, and old people, all of whom, they claimed, had been murdered by government soldiers.

Salvadoran army and government leaders denied the reports and officials of the Reagan administration called them "gross exaggerations".[15] The Associated Press reported that "the U.S. Embassy disputed the reports, saying its own investigation had found... that no more than 300 people had lived in El Mozote."[16]

The story soon was attacked by the Reagan administration, and Bonner was recalled to New York and later left the paper.

In February, in an editorial, "The Media's War", The Wall Street Journal criticized Bonner's reporting as "overly credulous" and "out on a limb". In Time magazine, William A. Henry III wrote a month later, "An even more crucial if common oversight is the fact that women and children, generally presumed to be civilians, can be active participants in guerrilla war. New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner underplayed that possibility, for example, in a much-protested January 27 report of a massacre by the army in and around the village of [el] Mozote."[17] The first U.S. Ambassador to el Salvador of Ronald Reagan's presidency, Deane R. Hinton, called Bonner an "advocate journalist".[18] Bonner was recalled to New York in August and later left the paper.[19]


  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/08/international/americas/08salvador.html?_r=0
  2. https://popularresistance.org/what-did-elliott-abrams-have-to-do-with-the-el-mozote-massacre/
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20121115135836/http://www.markdanner.com/articles/show/the_truth_of_el_mozote
  4. https://web.archive.org/web/20121115135836/http://www.markdanner.com/articles/show/the_truth_of_el_mozote
  5. https://articles.latimes.com/1992-12-09/news/mn-1714_1_atlacatl-battalion
  6. https://web.archive.org/web/20110108131124/http://www.usip.org/files/file/ElSalvador-Report.pdf
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/08/international/americas/08salvador.html
  8. Danner, Mark (2005). The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. Granta p67
  9. Danner, Mark (2005). The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. Granta p78
  10. Danner, Mark (2005). The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. Granta p 78
  11. Danner, Mark (2005). The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. Granta p77
  12. Danner, Mark (2005). The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. Granta p81
  13. https://www.nytimes.com/1982/01/27/world/massacre-of-hundreds-reported-in-salvador-village.html
  14. https://www.nytimes.com/1982/01/27/world/massacre-of-hundreds-reported-in-salvador-village.html
  15. https://web.archive.org/web/20071116142355/http://backissues.cjrarchives.org/year/93/1/mozote.asp
  16. http://www.newslinx.org/articles/2-12-1982ElMozote.htm
  17. https://web.archive.org/web/20071116142355/http://backissues.cjrarchives.org/year/93/1/mozote.asp
  18. https://ls2.cmich.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A3=ind0411&L=AEJMC&E=8bit&P=3141815&B=--&T=text%2Fplain;%20charset=iso-8859-1
  19. https://web.archive.org/web/20071116142355/http://backissues.cjrarchives.org/year/93/1/mozote.asp