[FBIS Translated Text from Paris AFP]
Honduran authorities are investigating an alleged alliance between groups from the al-Qa’ida terrorist network and youth gangs, Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Rafael Moreno said today.
“We are processing information from the investigation that the National Police are carrying out. There is a report from a former FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agent” from the United States in that regard, the official said.
According to the daily, El Heraldo, in an item datelined Washington and Tegucigalpa, expert Armando Lara, an FBI agent until recently, said he had heard that alleged Islamic terrorists from al-Qa’ida financed a “gang summit” held in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa on a date that was not prearranged.
“Honduran Armed Forces intelligence units are aiding the Police in this investigation; they are part of that process,” Moreno emphasized.
President Ricardo Maduro also said that he gave instructions to all justice personnel to “cooperate closely with international police sources, such as Interpol, and with police from friendly countries to determine whether it is true that there has been international financing” for the Maras [Mara Salvatrucha, a violent Central American gang] or other gangs.
According to Maduro, gang and Mara activity decreased by 60 percent in Honduras as a result of operations undertaken by his government to free neighborhoods and settlements from the criminal gang activity.
The government estimates that more than 1,500 members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS) and Mara 18 (M-18) are behind bars as a result of that offensive.
The Security Ministry’s gang unit estimates that some 34,000 youths belong to the two organizations, but a 2001 congressional report put that figure at some 100,000, because it includes young sympathizers and collaborators of the two organizations.
“No matter where the financing comes from, the struggle against the Maras will continue until the last day of my government,” 27 January 2006, Maduro emphasized.
Last week, Security Minister Oscar Alvarez also affirmed that authorities are investigating supposed ties between members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Honduran gangs with middle eastern terrorists through the sale of weapons, and whether al-Qa’ida was offering money to Honduran youths to carry out terrorist acts.