NEW YORK: Investigators have arrested more than 230 suspected MS-13 gang members in New York, Baltimore and El Salvador, US officials announced Friday, in a move celebrated by President Donald Trump.

The operation against the Hispanic gang was the result of more than two years of investigative work, US drug agency DEA officials and the Suffolk County prosecutor said in a statement.

Of more than 230 people arrested, 96 were from Long Island – a stronghold of MS-13 – although the statement did not specify if they were American or foreign nationals.

Shortly after the announcement, Trump tweeted: “We are getting MS-13 gang members, and many other people that shouldn’t be here, out of our Country!”

The president has frequently linked illegal gang activity to his campaign to lower migration to the US.

In 2017 he said MS-13 had “literally taken power in American cities and towns”.

“Today’s arrests close the book on MS-13’s attempt to build an arsenal of brutality on the East Coast,“ said DEA Special Agent Ray Donovan.

He said the investigation had given officials valuable insight into the gang’s “goals of recruitment, expansion, brutality, violence and rule”.

US district attorney Timothy Sini added that at least seven murder plots had been prevented as a result of the case.

Around 10kg of cocaine, heroin, cannabis and fentanyl pills were also seized.

MS-13 originated from Los Angeles but during a crackdown in the 1990s many of their members were deported to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

There, they gained power, helping to make northern Central America one of the deadliest regions in the world. — AFP