ATF International Response Team to Investigate Military Base Explosion in El Salvador

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WASHINGTON – At the request of the offices of the Minister of Defense and the Attorney General of El Salvador, the International Response Team (IRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will arrive in El Salvador on Thursday, Oct. 1 to provide support in the investigation into the Sept. 28 explosion at a military base near San Juan Opico, La Libertad, El Salvador.

The ATF team of approximately 20 members, will arrive in El Salvador to conduct a post-blast scene investigation, including scene reconstruction, interviews, and sifting through debris to obtain evidence related to the explosion. The team will work in close coordination with the Salvadoran Attorney General, Ministry of Defense and the National Civil Police.

The ATF IRT is composed of veteran special agents who have post-blast and fire origin-and-cause expertise, forensic chemists, explosives enforcement officers, fire protection and electrical engineers, accelerant detection canines, explosives detection canines, intelligence support, computer forensic support and forensic audit support. Each team assembled and deployed is designed to best accommodate the specific incident.

This activation is the 38th call-out for the ATF IRT since its inception in 1978, and the third call-out for 2015. The IRT travels abroad to investigate large-vehicle bombings, provide technical support in the disassembly of improvised explosive devices, and to provide investigative oversight at post-blast explosion scenes and large-scale fires that result in massive loss of life or property loss estimated in the millions of dollars.

Past ATF IRT activations include the Las Cascadas mall fire in El Salvador in early 2015, a prison fire in Comayagua, Honduras, which killed more than 350 inmates in 2012, and an Albanian ammunition depot explosion in April 2008 that killed 26 people, wounded approximately 400 others, and destroyed or damaged more than 4,000 homes and businesses.

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