Thursday, January 06, 2005

Eastie gang linked to al-Qaeda

By Michele McPhee
Boston Herald
Wednesday, January 5, 2005

A burgeoning East Boston-based street gang made up of alleged rapists and machete-wielding robbers has been linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, prompting Boston police to ``turn up the heat'' on its members, the Herald has learned.

MS-13, which stands for La Mara Salvatrucha, is an extremely violent organization with roots in El Salvador, and boasts more than 100 ``hardcore members'' in East Boston who are suspected of brutal machete attacks, rapes and home invasions. There are hundreds more MS-13 gangsters in towns along the North Shore, said Boston police Sgt. Detective Joseph Fiandaca, who has investigated the gang since it began tagging buildings in Maverick Square in 1995.

In recent months, intelligence officials in Washington have warned national law enforcement agencies that al-Qaeda terrorists have been spotted with members of MS-13 in El Salvador, prompting concerns the gang may be smuggling Islamic fundamentalist terrorists into the country. Law enforcement officials have long believed that MS-13 controls alien smuggling routes along Mexico.

The warning is being taken seriously in East Boston, where Raed Hijazi, an al-Qaeda operative charged with training the suicide bombers in the attack on the USS Cole, lived and worked, prosecutors have charged.

Also, the commercial jets that hurtled into the World Trade Center towers in New York City were hijacked from Logan International Airport.

``The terrorist aspect, especially when you think in terms of 9/11 and how intent these terrorists are, will turn the heat up on our efforts with MS-13,'' Fiandaca said.

MS-13 members congregate near the Maverick Square train station sporting white and blue bandannas, their skin inked with spider webs and ``laugh now, cry later'' clown faces.

``MS-13 is the most dangerous gang in the area,'' Fiandaca said. ``They are big. They are mobile. Now they have a terrorist connection.''

The theory that Salvadoran criminals manage to smuggle people over the border was bolstered this month when two Boston men described as MS-13 leaders were spotted on the North Shore days before Christmas - a year after they were deported by Boston Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators for gang-related crimes.

One of the two men, Elmer ``Tiger'' Tejada, 24, who had been deported after being convicted of a slew of crimes, including attempted murder charges for hurling a machete at Chelsea cops, was busted in Lynn on New Year's Day. Tejada is described as ``an original MS-13 member'' from East Boston, sources said.

A manhunt has been launched for the second fugitive, who is in the country illegally, Boston police said.

The growing number of MS-13 members, and the degree of violence the gang engages in, prompted investigators from 14 local and national agencies to form the North Shore Gang Intelligence task force in 2000, Fiandaca said.

Among the most notorious local crimes attributed to MS-13 was the gang rape of two deaf girls, one 14, the other 17, in a Somerville park in 2002. Three MS-13 gang members were charged in the brutal rapes, during which one victim was knocked from her wheelchair before the assault.


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