The MS-13 Gang and Al Qaeda Connection
Gangs, such as Mara Salvatrucha, mainly help terrorists for financial gain. A member of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) when asked why MS-13 would agree to aid Al Qaeda in the wake of 9/11, stated “Money. That is the reason for everything.” (Williams, 2005, p. 169). MS-13 is one of the largest and most dangerous gangs. MS-13 controls the majority of smuggling (drugs, weapons, and people) that flows from Mexico into the United States (Williams, 2005). MS-13’s determination to control the United States-Mexico border is evident by the shear number of gang members assigned this duty. MS-13 has over three thousand gang members that watch over the border (Williams, 2005). The United States government only has approximately ten thousand border patrol agents assigned to the Mexico border (Minority Staff of the Committee on Homeland Security U.S. House of Representatives, 2005). How serious is the United States government at controlling the border when gangs like MS-13 dedicate almost a third the amount of resources as the United States government does at controlling the border?
The ability of MS-13 to effectively and publicly control the border allows them to deal with terrorists, such as Al Qaeda. MS-13’s ability to control the border is what captured the attention of Al Qaeda:
"Mara Salvatrucha attracted the attention of top Al Qaeda officials, who realized that the Salvadoran gang could be used to smuggle operatives and weapons (including small nukes and other weapons of mass destruction) into the United States and also to provide safe transport over the border and shelter for sleeper agents in town and cities from San Diego, California, to Bangor, Maine; from Miami, Florida, to Kodiak, Alaska – places where the gang already established a presence" (Williams, 2005, p. 160).
By 2002 Al Qaeda and MS-13 officially became partners. Their partnership was simple:
"In exchange for safe passage across the border, shelter within the states, and a bogus matricula consular, Al Qaeda – through its cells in South America – agreed to pay Mara Salvatrucha from $30,000 to $50,000 for each sleeper agent" (Williams, 2005. p. 160).
It is unclear exactly how many Al Qaeda operatives MS-13 have brought illegally into the United States across the border. It has been reported, however, that Adnan el-Shukrijumah, the appointed Al Qaeda planner for the next 9/11, secured the services of MS-13 to enter the United States (Williams, 2005).
The border situation with Mexico is a serious problem that the United States should address immediately. For all practical purposes, MS-13 controls one third of the border, based on number of personnel assigned. The United States must focus efforts to bring MS-13 to justice and regain control of the border. As long as MS-13 controls the border, terrorists and criminals will use their services.
Minority Staff of the Committee on Homeland Security U.S. House of Representatives. (May 2005). The U.S. border patrol: failure of the administration to deliver a comprehensive land border strategy leaves our nation’s borders vulnerable. Retrieved from: http://homeland.house.gov/SiteDocuments/20060912174839-94357.pdf
Williams, P. (2005). The Al Qaeda connection: International terrorism, organized crime, and the coming apocalypse. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.