MS-13 gang accused of New York murders

Image source, AP
Image caption,
A memorial to Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas is seen near the spot where their bodies were found in Brentwood

Alleged members of a Central American street gang have been charged with the deaths of three New York teenagers, in a case cited by President Donald Trump.

The victims included two girls who were attacked with a machete and baseball bats as they walked through the Brentwood neighbourhood of Long Island.

Thirteen members of the MS-13 street gang and its affiliates have been charged in relation to the murders.

Ten were citizens of El Salvador or Honduras who were in the US illegally.

Kayla Cuevas, 16, was ambushed on 13 September last year because she had been feuding with MS-13 members at school and on social media, said investigators.

Her best friend, Nisa Mickens, 15, happened to be with her when a carload of attackers, who had been prowling the neighbourhood in search of enemies, pulled up.

Nisa "was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, hanging out with her childhood friend," said US Attorney Robert Capers.

Their former Brentwood High School schoolmate, Jose Pena-Hernandez, 18, was an MS-13 member who was lured to woods last June by fellow gang members he thought were friends, police said.

They stabbed him to death.

Some of the defendants, who range in age from 18 to 29, were charged with four other murders last year.

The killings of two other Brentwood youths, ages 15 and 19, whose bodies were discovered last year in secluded spots remain unsolved.

Last December, President Trump mentioned the Brentwood killings during a profile for his Time magazine Person of the Year award.

"They come from Central America. They're tougher than any people you've ever met," he said.

"They're killing and raping everybody out there. They're illegal. And they are finished."