Here‘s what you need to know about the gang whose motto — “rape, control, kill” — has created fear in Washington and nationwide.
Mara Salvatrucha means “Salvadorian gang” and was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by immigrants from war-torn El Salvador.
The “13” is believed by experts to come from the 13th letter of the alphabet: M for “Mara.”
MS-13 is made up of “cliques” with names such as the Sailors, Normandy, Peajes, Uniones and Fultons.
They work through a partnership called “La Hermandad,” or “the Brotherhood”across the District, Maryland and Virginia.
The gang spread beyond Los Angeles and California in response to anti-gang efforts and a demand for low-skilled workers across America. Many relocated to the Washington area, including Northern Virginia.
MS-13 is believed to have between 1,500 and 3,000 members.
Many are between 16 and 18 years old.
Locally, the gang has been linked to shootings, baseball bat beatings, the stabbing of a pregnant teenager who was a federal witness, and the removal of four fingers from a 16-year-old boy’s hands using a machete.