Gang related violence makes up a significant amount of the global homicide rate. In 2016, out of the 560,000 victims of murder, 68% of them were killed intentionally; the majority being executed by gangs. And this figure is probably going to keep increasing as gang recruitment efforts in the United States go up. However, gang related violence is not only confined to the States. With many gangs going international and the general presence of other global powerful organisations, we decided to take a look at some of the most violent gangs around the world. All the way from El Salvador to Japan, the following gangs inspire mass fear through how brutally they deal with those who stand in their way.
Mara Salvatrucha, commonly known as MS-13, is a gang which originated in Los Angeles and was founded by migrants from El Salvador. The gang was set up in the 1980s and the primary reason they arose was to protect the Salvadoran community from other LA gangs. But over time, they started to take on the image of your typical organised crime entity.
In the 1990s, when many members of the gang were deported from the States, MS-13 gained a considerable presence in El Salvador. After returning to Central America, members of the group have completely overwhelmed law enforcement in the region. As of now, they present a greater threat to Central American communities than they do to the United States.
In El Salvador, MS-13 is known for how quickly they can resort to violence against anyone who displeases them. When dealing with a specific target, MS-13 will also murder the victim’s entire family and anyone else present at the murder scene. Even children and babies are not shown mercy. Notorious for their use of machetes to slowly hack their victims to death, MS-13 is truly one of the most gruesome gangs around the world.
Unfortunately, a large portion of the gang’s members and new recruits are minors, with the majority of the murders also being carried out by them. This has ties to the gang’s origin as a loose collection of undocumented Salvadoran teens, looking to find an escape from their marginalised position in society. And this is how the recruitment process for the gang still works to this day. Although many may believe that MS-13 actively searches for members and intends to become a major transnational threat, that’s probably not how they operate.
Similar to how most street gangs emerge and function, MS-13 is still a collection of pockets of Salvadoran youth who join the gang to find a community. Yet, becoming a member involves engaging in drug dealing, gruesome violence and sex trafficking.
Maybe Kill Bill’s portrayal of the Yakuza isn’t entirely accurate, but it does reveal how violent the gang can be. The Yakuza’s early roots can be traced to the 1600s during the Tokugawa Shogunate, when Japan operated under a feudal government. Historically, the Yakuza can’t really be labelled as one large gang. They operate under many subsets across the country, each differing in their “business activities” and their tendency for violence.
For example, the Kudo-Kai gang of the Yakuza is known to go after anyone who’s associated with their targets. In 2013, they shot and killed a 70-year-old head of a fishing cooperative. After dealing with him, they targeted and stabbed the cooperative owner’s grandson. The grandson was just a dentist who had nothing to do with the Yakuza at all. And then later on, they attacked a woman using knives; she just happened to be a worker at the cooperative.
A large part of Yakuza violence is made up of gang rivalries. In the 1980s, one of the most devastating Yakuza gang wars took place in the Kansai prefecture in Japan. The leader and the second-in-command of the Yamaguchi-gumi group had died. With no one left to automatically assume power, they elected Masahisa Takenaka, one of their members, as their new leader. However, one of the gang’s lieutenants was not happy with this decision and decided to break off from the gang and form his own rival group called Ichiwa-kai.
Eventually, the Ichiwa-kai shot Takenaka and other high-ranking officers of the Yamaguchi-gumi, inciting a four year gang war. The war escalated to such a degree that local newspapers would publish score cards of how many people had been killed each day. The war ended when it was clear that Yamaguchi-gumi significantly overpowered the Ichiwa-kai. The Yamaguchi-gumi then got a new leader, Yoshinori Watanabe, whose leadership helped the gang become one of the largest gangs in the world.
Could the Yakuza soon fade out?
It appears that the Yakuza’s legendary history is soon coming to an end. With members of the gang aging and increasing public disdain for these organisations, the Yakuza’s membership rate has been declining for the past 14 years. But they’ll probably always have their reputation as one of the most dangerous gangs around the world.
The Mungiki is a gang from Kenya whose aim is to reduce the effects of Westernisation in the country and return to the region’s traditional roots. The gang is composed of members of the Kikuyu tribe, which makes up the largest ethnic group in Kenya. The word “Mungiki” actually means
a united people in the Kikuyu language. As wholesome as this may sound, the Mungiki often resort to aggressive acts of violence in order to secure power and accomplish their goals. This makes them one of the most fearsome gangs in the world.
Kenyan police has referred to the Mungiki as their country’s version of the Mafia. They dominate major sectors in Kenya’s urban areas and charge locals taxes for water, electricity and protection. At least they give receipts though.
The height of the Mungiki’s violent raids on the public took place in 2007 after the Kenyan presidental elections. The gang was backing a candidate who ended up losing the position and so, chaos ensued. Although the conflict did escalate after the elections, it was and has almost always been based on ethnic tensions between the Kikuyu, the Kalenjin and the Luo people. After a month of violence, the death toll mounted to nearly 800 deaths. Before the mass murders, the Mungiki had also beheaded 8 people and placed their heads on poles near the capital, Nairobi, as a scare tactic.
The mayhem the Mungiki caused in 2007 took place five years after the group was banned by the Kenyan government. The ban was put in place when the group had killed and slashed 20 people with knives in the Mathare slum of Nairobi. Mungiki activity had phased out a bit in the early 2010s; however now, the gang is starting to make a comeback, overwhelming the authorities.
The Aryan Brotherhood
The Aryan Brotherhood is a white supremacist prison gang which was formed in the United States. The gang’s conception began in the 1960s when prisoners of different races were placed in the same institutions, rather than being segregated. The Brotherhood now has more than 20,000 members and has become the most violent prison gang in the United States.
When it comes to the gang’s activities in prison, they engage in drug trafficking, setting up male prostitution rings, gambling and extortion. However, outside of prison, things get quite a bit more intense. On the streets, the Aryan Brotherhood is known to manufacture methamphetamine, murder people for hire and engage in armed robbery. The gang was originally composed of Irish bikers but then eventually, other white subcultures joined their cause and the group changed their name to the Aryan Brotherhood. Much of the violence the Brotherhood instigates is based on racial tensions between Black, Latino and White inmates in prison.
There’s also a lot of internal violence in the gang. The price one pays for leaving the Brotherhood, even if they’re out of prison, is death. This strategy is enforced in order to inspire fear amongst current members and to keep things in order. Mudering members for leaving the group probably makes the Aryan Brotherhood one of the most internally violent gangs around the world.
On a Lighter Note…
We hope you learned quite a bit about the variety of gangs that can exist around the world, even around the country. If you’re into fun strategy games and wanna experience a gang war (without the actual crime and violence), then you can check out our game, Rebelz GangWar!