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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 15:56 GMT
US raids target cross-border gang
A gang member inside a prison in San Salvador
Gang members come from across the Americas
Authorities in the United States have arrested 103 members of a notorious street gang, whose activities reach from the US to El Salvador.

The suspects were detained in seven cities across the US since late January, officials have said.

They belong to Mara Salvatrucha 13 - or MS-13 - one of the largest and most violent gangs in the US.

The arrests were for violations of anti-gang laws and illegal entry into the United States.

Foreign nationals

Acting Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Garcia said the goal was simple - to "dismantle MS-13 by removing gang members from our streets and our communities.

"That they are foreign-born gives us an opportunity to get into the gang and disrupt their activity. That's an incredible tool," he was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

MS-13 is believed to have about 20,000 members in the US and thousands more in Central America.

Immigration spokesman Miguel Lopez said most of the gang's members came from Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador.

He said the gang was funded by drug-trafficking and smuggling immigrants into the United States.

Bus massacre

The suspects were arrested in an operation dubbed "Community Shield".

Mr Garcia said some were wanted on suspicion of murder, while some already had convictions for attempted murder, sodomy, assault, arson and the possession of weapons and drugs.

MS-13 was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s by refugees of El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war.

Last month, the alleged head of MS-13 was arrested in the US in connection with the massacre of 28 people on a bus in Honduras.

Honduras massacre 'leader' held
24 Feb 05 |  Americas
Combating El Salvador's gangs
20 Mar 04 |  Americas

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