One of the World's Most Deadly Gangs Has Infiltrated Australia

MS-13 has a mission to "kill, rape, and control”, according to Homeland Security.
A member of MS-13. Wikimedia Commons

In May last year, US authorities embarked on an extensive investigation into MS-13, the ultra-violent drug gang largely considered to be one of the world's deadliest. Now, Homeland Security has revealed the extent of the gang's international influence, including a presence in Australia. “We uncovered a structured network of MS-13 operations in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia [and] Texas, from within a Mississippi prison cell, and in countries around the globe including Mexico, Colombia, Korea, France, Australia, Peru, Egypt, Ecuador and Cuba,” explained Ms Singas, New York's Nassau County District Attorney, in a public statement.


“We were surprised to see some of those countries … The investigation definitely revealed MS-13 has expanded its reach internationally.”

"MS", which is short for Mara Salvatrucha, is a combination of Mara (gang), Salva (Salvador) and trucha (street smarts), according to the BBC. The "13" is believed to stand for the letter 'M''s placement in the alphabet.

MS-13 has it roots in 1980s Los Angeles; it was started by disenfranchised immigrants from El Salvador, who fled to the US during the country’s civil war. The recent, multi-state crackdown—largely focused on arrests in Nassau County in Long Island, New York—has shone a light on the extent of the gang's violence.

In October last year, 17 members were indicted on murder, drug and conspiracy charges on Long Island. One of the indictments relates to the July 2017 murder of Angel Soler; the 15-year-old's body was brutally beaten by a machete, after which "cement was poured over his body," the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports.

"The MS-13 members kill for no reason, they take people's lives for no reason, they impact the family and community for nothing other than proof that they're violent so they can gain status in the gang," explained Geraldine Hart, from the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force.

MS-13 is divided into subgroups known as "cliques", with many cliques reporting back to senior members in Salvador. According to a DEA statement released January 11, 2018 (EST):

All cliques are MS-13 gang members, and each clique operates individually under their own rules, yet is still under the greater rules of the entire organization. MS-13 mandates that cliques respect each other and their territories. Any issues or conflicts between cliques that require resolution or punishment are handled by MS-13 senior leadership.

“It is no secret that the MS-13’s motto is kill, rape, and control,” Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York, said in the statement. "When you look at the charges against these individuals today, it shows that they stay true to their ruthless ways, and will fund their gang activities by any means."

Further details of the gang's involvement in Australia have yet to be made public knowledge.