Teenagers are working as assassins in Argentina's Mendoza province, according to media reports, the latest example of child recruitment by Latin American criminal organizations.
A report published by newspaper Clarin says rival micro-trafficking gangs are behind a series of murders and other violent crimes in recent months.
One group is known as "Yaqui's Little Angels." It is made up of teenagers between 15 and 17 years old, and is apparently led by a 39-year-old woman and her brother. It is believed to have committed multiple homicides in the city of Godoy Cruz.
Various "Angels" have been detained for multiple homicides over recent months, according to Mendoza newspaper El Sol, including a 16-year old accused of taking part in at last five murders last year. In January, another gang member took over a house in the city, displacing a woman and her four children, said the online media outlet.
InSight Crime Analysis
Employing minors is a tactic used by organized criminal groups across Latin America, with children or teenagers representing a low-cost, expendable labor source that is less likely to attract attention from law enforcement. Youngsters living in poverty are lured with promises of money or status, or manipulated with drugs.
Particularly hard-hit by the phenomenon are Colombia -- where estimates of the number of child recruits range between 5,000 and 14,000 -- and Mexico, where cartels use children to transport drugs and act as look-outs, as well as carry out assassinations.
Social media has opened the way for new recruiting tactics. According to a report by newspaper Peru 21 last week, Peruvian gangs are using social media such as Facebook and YouTube to attract teenage recruits.