Andrea Noble, Washington Times, March 21, 2016
The notoriously violent MS-13 street gang, known for slashing victims to death with knives and machetes, is reviving its brutal brand of violence to reassert its dominance in the Washington metropolitan area–with authorities linking at least eight homicides in Virginia and Maryland over the past year to the gang.
The recent uptick in violence can be traced to a failed gang truce in El Salvador and, in part, to a surge of unaccompanied Central American children who entered the United States last year to flee violence at home, according to gang analysts.
There is concern over the degree to which MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, has exploited an immigration policy that over the past two years has allowed waves of migrant children to enter the United States.
In one of the eight recent killings with MS-13 ties, three young men were charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old in Loudoun County, Virginia. They were identified as having entered the United States illegally in 2013 as unaccompanied children who later skipped immigration hearings.
Renewed concern about the gang comes as one of the largest trials of MS-13 members in Northern Virginia begins this week, with 13 men facing charges related to three gruesome killings and an attempted murder of people who either left the gang, stood up to its members or were suspected of providing information about the gang’s activities to law enforcement.
“What we are beginning to see is an attempt to re-establish themselves as the preeminent gang in the Maryland area,” [Montgomery County State’s Attorney John] McCarthy said. “They are actively trying to build their numbers again. That is based on direction they are receiving from outside the U.S.”
In January, the indictment of 56 MS-13 members in Boston revealed a renewed focus on snuffing out rival gangs.
The federal indictment states that East Coast MS-13 leaders held a regional summit in December in Richmond, Virginia, where they “told the leaders that their cliques needed to be more active in killing rival gang members.”
Crime scene photos from the three homicides that are expected to be used at trial include images of “severed body parts and partially decomposed corpses,” according to one court filing made by the attorney for defendant Pedro Anthony Romero Cruz, whom prosecutors describe as the leader of the Park View Locos Salvatruchas gang.