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Firefighters evacuate a wounded person after suspected gang members attacked Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City, Guatemala August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria


GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - At least six people were killed and 12 others injured on Wednesday after suspected gang members attacked a hospital in a bid to free a jailed associate who was there for a checkup, police and hospital officials said.

"Anderson Daniel Cabrera, a gang member from the Mara Salvatrucha, was coming for a medical review," police spokesman Jorge Aguilar said. "(They) are suspected of wanting to rescue him."

Police arrested five of the seven suspected members of the gang who were armed with attack rifles when they attacked Guatemala City's Roosevelt Hospital, although Cabrera escaped, Aguilar told reporters.

Among the six people killed were three security guards and a hospital janitor, said Edwin Bravo, director of the San Juan de Dios hospital where the injured were transferred.

Patients on crutches and in stretchers and wheelchairs were evacuated from the hospital as police officers searched for other attackers. Hallway floors were stained with blood and walls were pocked with bullet holes, according to a Reuters witness on the scene.

Like El Salvador and Honduras, Guatemala struggles with endemic gang violence, especially from the powerful Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and its rival Calle 18, who sow terror in slum neighbourhoods across Central America.

(Reporting by Luis Echeverria and Sofia Menchu; Editing by Daina Beth Solomon and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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