US & Canada

Arkansas white supremacist gang arrested in string of violent crimes

A white supremacist marches in Illinois in 2009 Image copyright Getty Images

Federal prosecutors in Arkansas have indicted 54 members of a white supremacy gang for allegedly committing acts of violence and drug dealing.

The indictment names 54 people with ties to the New Aryan Empire, a white supremacist group which is known for Nazi swastikas and Heil Hitler salutes.

The charges, including murder, conspiracy, and drug trafficking, are part of Operation To The Dirt.

Prosecutors say the gang first formed in an Arkansas jail in 1990.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Rybicki said the group is also known to intimidate witnesses and in one case burned an informant's face with a hot knife.

The New Aryan Empire (NAE) "has moved from our prisons to our neighbourhoods," Mr Rybicki said, adding that they count roughly 5,000 people as members.

As part of the operation - named for a gang code that refers to being a member for life - authorities seized 69 guns, 25lbs (11kg) of methamphetamine and over $70,000 in drug money.

US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Cody Hiland said he plans to prosecute the case under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, otherwise known as the RICO Act.

The act, which has been used to prosecute other organised criminal groups, allows prosecutors to target leaders who order other people to commit crimes on their behalf.