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A name that makes a lot of people's blood run cold – MS-13.
Known for being one the most dangerous gangs in the world, MS-13 is renowned for its savagery and fondness for decapitating its victims with machetes. The motto for the gang is just as grim – "kill, rape and control".
While they are largely a predatory criminal organization living mostly from extortion, the gang’s resilience owes to its strong social bonds, which are created and strengthened from acts of violence against mostly their rivals and one another.
The gang is so deadly, in some countries it has been officially labelled a terrorist organisation.
But how did this gang come to be?
The gang began in the barrios of Los Angeles in LA during the 1980s, formed by immigrants who had fled El Salvador's long and brutal civil war. Other members came from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
The MS stands for Mara Salvatrucha, said to be a combination of Mara, meaning gang, Salva, for Salvador, and trucha, which translates roughly into street smarts. The 13 represents the position of M in the alphabet.
The violence starts on day one for gang members.
To join the gang, members have to be "jumped in" – subjected to a vicious 13-second beating – and then "get wet", which means to commit a serious crime, often murder.
Gang members are encouraged to get extensive tattoos which also makes leaving difficult. People who try are often killed, along with their families.
Its reputation is so bad that when the Sinaloa and Los Zetas started a bloody cartel drugs war in Mexico, which killed more than 10,000 people, they competed to recruit killer MS-13 gang members to their ranks.
It now has 30,000 to 50,000 members worldwide, with up to 10,000 in the United States. And while there are much bigger gangs, such as the Crips and the Bloods, MS-13 remains notorious for its savagery.
Members commonly cover themselves in tattoos, and it's not unusual for them to even get ink on their faces, although they are said to be moving away from face tattoos to make it easier to go under the radar while committing their depraved crimes.
Frequent markings include "MS", "Salvatrucha", the "Devil Horns", and the name of their clique.
A detention affidavit released in 2016 as a part of the federal case against more than 50 alleged MS-13 members and affiliates of the gang revealed exactly what anyone hoping to get into the savage gang has to do.
Members of the FBI’s task force were able to record and videotape MS-13’s initiation rituals, according to the affidavit.
On December 23, 2004, one of the most widely publicised MS-13 crimes in Central America occurred in Chamelecón, Honduras.
Gang members apparently ambushed an intercity bus and sprayed it with automatic gunfire from assault rifles, killing 28 and wounding 14 civilian passengers.
Most of their victims were women and children.
The gang is so notorious President Donald Trump used it as his boogeyman while pushing for tighter immigration controls and the police launched a nationwide crackdown on its members.
There is no evidence yet it has worked and the killings continue.
“If a father doesn’t want to cooperate with us, they will do something to his daughter,” an unnamed former member told the New York Post.
“I never raped anyone, but others did. If a gang member was interested in a girl he saw, he would rape her and claim her as property.
“MS-13 is a virus. And like every virus you have to figure out where it comes from and you have to kill it.”
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