Medical aid organisation says ambulance was ‘attacked by an armed group’ east of El Salvador’s capital early on Sunday.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) has suspended its activities in areas dominated by gangs near San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, after the medical aid organisation said one of its ambulances was attacked by an armed group.

An MSF coordinator said on Sunday a doctor and a medical assistant was in the ambulance when it was attacked at about 3am local time on its way to provide assistance in Reparto Las Canas, an area about seven kilometres (four miles) east of San Salvador.

“For the moment, all our medical activities are suspended until we can be sure that our interventions can take place safely,” Luis Romero told the AFP news agency.

Romero called on armed gangs and civil society in general to respect the activities of healthcare workers.

Translation: “We are outraged by the attack on a team of our ambulance service… We are independent, neutral and impartial. We help people in their time of greatest need. We remind you that #WeAreNotATarget”

El Salvador has reported nearly 55,000 cases of COVID-19 to date as well as more than 1,600 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The country also has one of the highest rates of violence in the world.

Tens of thousands of gang members operate in municipalities across El Salvador and extort residents, according to Human Rights Watch, while Salvadoran security forces “remain largely ineffective in protecting the population”.