MS-13: The shocking story of the vicious Latino gang accused of beheading a man and ripping his heart out

MS-13: The shocking story of the gang accused of beheading a man and ripping his heart out

Many members of the gang have tattoos

Friday, November 24, 2017

Even by the standards of US gangs, this is some brutal stuff.

Police revealed yesterday (November 23) that a man was stabbed more than 100 times, beheaded and had his heart ripped out before being buried in a park in Wheaton, Maryland.

It is thought up to 10 people took part in the killing which took place in spring this year and was co-ordinated with walkie-talkies. The body was found after police received information in September about its locations.

Miguel Angel Lopez-Abrego, who is allegedly part of the MS-13 gang has been arrested on suspicion of murder as the gang is accused of being responsible for the death. But what is the story behind this shadowy movement?

The MS-13 gang was first formed by immigrants in the 1980s in a Spanish-speaking area of Los Angeles. Some of those who created it had escaped from civil war in El Salvador whilst others came from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

You might wonder why it has such a seemingly odd name, but MS actually stands for Mara Salvatrucha. Mara means gang and Salvatrucha is two words put together, Salva meaning Salvador and trucha meaning street smarts. They chose 13 as M is the 13th letter in the alphabet.

It is believed that the gang was started in an attempt to protect the Salvadoran community against gangs of African-American and Mexican origin. After the gang was formed it gained a reputation for using excessive violence and often killing people with machetes in areas held mainly by Mexican gangs, but it then moved to other areas of America. The FBI claims the gang has a presence in 46 states.

The gang also exists outside of America as during the 1990s many members were sent to Central American countries where they continued their work. According to former police officer Philip Holloway the gang's motto is 'mata, roba, viola, controla' which means 'kill, steal, rape, control.'

Reports claim the group actually has an annual revenue of $31.2million (£23.4 million). It is thought it is able to gain money from racketeering, murder drug trafficking, prostitution and human trafficking.

MS-13 is the first gang ever to be recorded as a "transnational criminal organisation" by the US Treasury, meaning it's afforded the sort of status usually reserved for international cartels. The FBI and US Treasury also claims the gang has at least 10,000 members in America and across the world there are said to be more than 30,000 members.

Joining the gang is no easy process, as members must be beaten for 13 seconds but also commit a crime, which is often a murder, for MS-13. Leaving is even harder: members usually have chest tattoos meaning they can be recognised and it is suggested some are murdered if they wish to break free.

Both Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have vowed to combat the MS-13 gang and have blamed former President Barack Obama's immigration policies for allowing it to fester.

In April this year when speaking to the National Rifle Association Trump talked about MS-13, he said: "That's a bad group. Not pleasant for MS-13. Get them the hell out of here, right? Get them out."

In October Sessions claimed the Department of Justice’s organised crime task force will destroy the gang and the department is making this a priority.

Last week officials announced that 214 arrests had been made in "operation raging bull" which is part of the crackdown on MS-13.

Sessions also claimed that this year alone more than 1,200 members have been convicted and roughly 4,000 members have been arrested and charged.

Yet, if recent reports are anything to go by, Trump and the US justice system still has a long way to go before this vile group is fully wiped out.