Almost 300 members of one of the most violent gangs in the Americas have been arrested by U.S. authorities in a major sweep called "Operation Raging Bull."
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MS-13 is an infamous transnational drug gang which originated in the Latin American barrios of Los Angeles during the 1980s. Its motto is “kill, rape, control,” and members are notoriously violent, with a penchant for machetes and murder.
A total of 267 arrests was reported by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency Thursday, with charges including murder, aggravated robbery, racketeering, narcotics trafficking, firearms offenses and assault, Associated Press reported.
It follows an announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, who vowed that the Department of Justice’s organised crime task force would destroy MS-13 "just like we took Al Capone off the streets."
The gang boasts more than 30,000 members worldwide – 10,000 of them based in the United States, according to the Justice Department.
They are known for violent revenge killings, including beheadings, the stabbing to death of a 15-year-old girl, and the recent slaying of two female high-school students in New York with a machete and a baseball bat
"In their relentless effort to expand gang membership and gang traction within our communities, they aggressively target our children in our schools," said acting ICE Director Tom Homan.
"The violence they perpetrate is shocking, and shows no remorse, or even a basic respect for human life."
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More than 1,200 members of MS-13 have been convicted so far this year, according to Sessions, with at least 4,000 arrested and charged. Six fugitives have now been added to ICE’s "most wanted" list.
The FBI lists drug distribution, murder, rape, prostitution, robbery, home invasions, immigration offenses, kidnapping, carjackings and vandalism among the gang’s illegal activities.
MS-13 was originally formed by refugees who had fled El Salvador’s brutal civil war, with the intention of protecting fellow Salvadoran immigrants from other established gangs in L.A.
But today the gang, whose heavily tattooed members are still predominantly Central American – most notably from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico – has spread as far north as the Canadian city of Toronto, and has a presence in at least 46 U.S. states.
The name MS-13 stands for ‘Mara Salvatrucha 13.’ It is said to be a combination of Mara, which translates as ‘gang’, Salva, for Salvador, and trucha, which roughly means ‘street smarts.’