In a first, US charges MS-13 leader with terror

WION Web Team
New York, New York, United States of America Updated: Jul 16, 2020, 06:44 AM(IST)

Briefing on the charges Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Attorney General Bill Barr announced the charges against Salvador-based gang leader Armando Eliu Melgar Diaz at a White House event meant to highlight the Trump administration's efforts to crack down on the group, on Wednesday.


The US Justice Department has used terrorism charges for the first time to indict a member of the notoriously violent MS-13 gang.

Attorney General Bill Barr announced the charges against Salvador-based gang leader Armando Eliu Melgar Diaz at a White House event meant to highlight the Trump administration's efforts to crack down on the group, on Wednesday.

The Justice Department accused Diaz with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to cross-border terror acts, along with narco-terror financing and other charges. He was further accused of directing MS-13 activities in the US East Coast region, ordering and approving numerous murders and overseeing drug deals while collecting payments from around 20 local MS-13 cliques.

The department did not explain why it was using terror charges for the first time against the gang, but it noted that the Salvadoran government had designated MS-13 a terror group.

Diaz lived illegally in the United States, mostly in Virginia, from 2003 to 2016 when he was deported. After that, he became the gang's main coordinator for its eastern US operations based in El Salvador. 

He is currently under arrest in El Salvador, facing charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit murder.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday the indictments of 21 MS-13 members in New York and Nevada who belong to US operations separate from those run by Diaz.

Charges against those involved include murder, kidnapping, drug trafficking and weapons violations. 

The Justice Department also said it would seek the death penalty for a notorious MS-13 hit man in New York, Alexi Saenz, who was indicted in 2017 for seven murders.

(with inputs from AFP)

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