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US says LatAm gang MS13 'extremely dangerous'

The United States branded the central American MS-13 group one of the world's most dangerous criminal gangs Thursday, designating it a "transnational criminal organization" to enable efforts to freeze the group's financial resources.

The US Treasury said the ultra-violent Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, has at least 30,000 members across a range of countries, including 8,000 in the United States, involved in murder, racketeering, drug trafficking and sex trafficking.

"MS-13 is an extremely violent and dangerous gang responsible for a multitude of crimes that directly threaten the welfare and security of US citizens, as well as countries throughout Central America," said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.

The group is "one of the most dangerous and rapidly expanding criminal gangs in the world today," the Treasury said in a statement.

"MS-13's criminal nature can be seen in one of its mottos, 'Mata, roba, viola, controla' ('Kill, steal, rape, control')."

The move officially places MS-13 on a list of "significant transnational criminal organizations" which already includes the Russia-Eastern Europe-rooted Brother's Circle, Mexico's Zetas, Italy's Camorra and the Yakuza of Japan.

It allows the United States to block any assets or property of MS-13-linked people or businesses, and prohibits any US citizens or US firms from doing any business with the group.

"This action positions us to target the associates and financial networks supporting MS-13, and gives law enforcement an additional tool in its efforts to disrupt MS-13's activities," said Cohen.

The Treasury said MS-13's local units, found in 40 US states, are directed by a leadership based in Central America, mainly El Salvador.

"Money generated by local MS-13 cliques in the US is consolidated and funnelled to the group's leadership in El Salvador," it said.

Since 2006 more than 4,000 MS-13 members have been arrested inside the United States.

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