9/28/2004

Terror gangs in "Tampabay area"

A top al Qaeda lieutenant has met with leaders of a violent Salvadoran criminal gang with roots in Mexico and the United States — including a stronghold in the Washington area — in an effort by the terrorist network to seek help infiltrating the U.S.-Mexico border, law enforcement authorities said. Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a key al Qaeda cell leader for whom the U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward, was spotted in July in Honduras meeting with leaders of El Salvador's notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang, which immigration officials said has smuggled millions of Central and South Americans into the United States.


Authorities said al Qaeda terrorists hope to take advantage of a lack of detention space within the Department of Homeland Security that has forced immigration officials to release non-Mexican illegal aliens back into the United States, rather than return them to their home countries. Less than 15 percent of those released appear for immigration hearings. Nearly 60,000 illegal aliens designated as other-than-Mexican, or OTMs, were detained last year along the U.S.-Mexico border.


El Shukrijumah, born in Saudi Arabia but thought to be a Yemen national, was spotted in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in July, having crossed the border illegally from Nicaragua after a stay in Panama. U.S. authorities said al Qaeda operatives have been in Tegucigalpa planning attacks against the US homeland. Known to carry passports from Saudi Arabia, Trinidad, Guyana and Canada, El Shukrijumah had sought meetings with the Mara Salvatrucha gang leaders who control alien-smuggling routes through Mexico and into the United States.


Authorities said Mara Salvatrucha gang members moved into the Los Angeles area in the 1980s and developed a reputation for being organized and extremely violent. The gang since has expanded into the Washington area, including Virginia and Maryland, and into Oregon, Alaska, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Georgia and Florida. More than 3,000 Mara Salvatrucha gang members are thought to be in the Tampabay area, with a major operation in Northern Virginia. Other gang centers, authorities said, include Montgomery and Prince George's counties and the Hispanic neighborhoods of Washington.



In March, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office filed an injunction against Mara Salvatrucha, charging that the gang's criminal activity constituted a "public nuisance" based on the number of killings, robberies and drug crimes. The injunction requires gang members, under public nuisance statutes, to follow curfew rules and regulations and prohibits them from associating, driving or appearing together in designated areas of the city.

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