- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

The MS-13 gang, a network of street thugs and paramilitary guerrillas from El Salvador, is one of the most dangerous Latino gangs in the United States, having killed three federal agents and shot several law enforcement officers in recent years, gang experts say.
Unlike other U.S. street gangs, MS-13 maintains contact with its factions in El Salvador, as well as throughout the United States, according to a 2000 report by the Orange County, Calif., District Attorney's Office.
The Washington Times reported Aug. 16 that the gang sent about 20 of its members from California to Fairfax County last month to kill a county police officer at random.
According to an Officer Safety Alert issued by the Metropolitan Police Department on July 20, the Leesburg, Va., Police Department had learned that the California members "are upset with the local MS-13 gang because a Fairfax County police officer has not been killed."
George W. Knox, director of the nonprofit National Gang Crime Research Center (NGCRC), said his agency ranks gangs from 1 (least dangerous) to 3 (most dangerous). MS-13 is a 3, he said, adding that "the level of violence for [MS-13] is extraordinary."
The Orange County district attorney's report, which is posted on line at www.nagia.org/mara_salvatrucha.htm, states that MS-13 members "have been responsible for the execution of three federal agents and numerous shootings of law enforcement officers across the country."
Local law enforcement officials said the gang has active members throughout the greater Washington area.
On July 31, 15 suspected members of MS-13 were arrested in Leesburg and charged with committing an act of violence by a mob and malicious wounding after a 25-year-old Leesburg man was struck with a machete.
MS-13, which stands for Mara Salvatrucha, originated in the late 1980s, when refugees with La Mara, a street gang in El Salvador, joined forces with Salvadoran guerrillas, known as "salvatruchas."
In the 1980s, more than 1 million Salvadoran refugees fled their homeland, which was embroiled in a civil war that resulted in about 70,000 fatalities over 12 years.
Salvadoran refugees, who settled in Los Angeles and Washington, formed gangs to protect themselves from other gangs, gang experts say.
Many gang members "had ties with La Mara, a violent street gang from El Salvador," according to the Orange County report. "Others had been members of paramilitary groups like the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front [FMNL] during the civil war."
Some former FMNL members had been trained in guerrilla tactics and were skilled with explosives and firearms, the report states.
Mara Salvatrucha quickly became known for its organization and violence. After establishing itself in California and Washington, the gang expanded its activities to at least 15 states, as well as Canada and Mexico. "They are literally all over the map," said Mr. Knox.
MS-13 members are often children of Salvadorans who came from the war-torn country, or have been deported to El Salvador and then returned to the United States, said Mr. Knox.
Their perspective is that "life ain't worth a dime, and they're willing to kill for a nickel," he said
According to the Orange County report, the gang ships drugs, guns and cars back and forth between the United States and El Salvador.


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