Virginia gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore yesterday said law-enforcement officers would be foolish to assume that there is no link between the al Qaeda terrorist network and the Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha.
“MS-13 is the most violent street gang around, and Homeland Security has said it makes sense to see these gangs as being targeted by al Qaeda,” Mr. Kilgore, a former state attorney general, told The Washington Times. “We’d be crazy to put our heads in the sand and just say there could never be a link.”
Two Northern Virginia prosecutors yesterday criticized the Republican candidate for similar statements he made last week. The prosecutors dismissed Mr. Kilgore’s comments as “pandering” and an attempt to score political points.
Mr. Kilgore, speaking on a radio program in Charlottesville on Thursday, said “MS-13 is being contacted by al Qaeda . . . to work in partnership with al Qaeda.” He cited a Washington Times article published in March, and made reference to a Times report from September last year.
The March article stated that former Homeland Security Deputy Secretary James Loy told a Senate committee in February that MS-13 was an emerging national security threat and suggested that al Qaeda terrorists may have targeted the gang’s illegal-alien smuggling operations to get into the United States.
The September article, citing law-enforcement authorities, stated that Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a top al Qaeda lieutenant for whom the U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward, had met with MS-13 leaders in Honduras to seek help infiltrating the U.S.-Mexico border.
FBI officials in Washington and Richmond in recent days have said investigations have turned up no known links between MS-13 and al Qaeda, but Mr. Kilgore yesterday said he wouldn’t retract his comments, and dismissed Mr. Sengel, Mr. Trodden and other critics.