On Saturday, Ukraine's security service said it had detained a 15-strong armed gang planning to seize power in Luhansk province.
Does that number 15 mean that there were 15 men strong physically in the armed group?
English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
No, 15-strong means there were 15 men in number. Strength here means the number of people in a group.
The position of the hyphen and plural is important. "15-strong armed gang" is what others have said: one group of 15 people, with guns (number of guns is unknown). Large knives are possible, but it usually refers to guns. You would expect the 15 people to be hostile toward someone, not necessarily you.
"15 strong-armed (gang members / men / people )" means 15 individuals with large muscles. Think Popeye or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Weapons and/or hostility are not implied here, you could use this phrase at a body-building contest or a gym.
"15 strong-armed gangs" means 15 separate groups of muscular people. This could be a very large number of individuals. If they appear angry, you should leave. Quickly.