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In El Salvador, Sessions Praises Criminal Charges for Gang Members

El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren (L), shakes hands with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) during a visit in San Salvador, El Salvador, July 27, 2017.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has congratulated his counterpart in El Salvador, Attorney General Douglas Menendez, on charging more than 700 gang members in the past two days — including many members of MS-13, an international criminal gang active in North and Central America.

Sessions is in El Salvador for talks on ways to fight the spread of the gang, which is also known as Mara Salvatrucha and is active in El Salvador and major North American metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; New York City; Boston, Massachusetts, and Toronto, Canada.

Watch: Trump to Address MS-13 Gang Violence in Crime-Plagued New York Community

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The Justice Department said in a release Thursday that "Attorney General Sessions has made dismantling transnational gangs like MS-13 a priority."

It said today's announcement comes as a result of the meeting of attorneys general held in March of this year in Washington, D.C.

The Justice Department also said this investigation is being handled by Salvadoran gang prosecutors who were trained and mentored by FBI and State Department advisers. It added that FBI and Justice Department teams worked with Salvadoran prosecutors to fund and arrange for essential witnesses to be transported to El Salvador for the proceedings.

At the White House Thursday, principal associate deputy attorney general Robert Hur told reporters, "These are very significant blows to MS-13."

The Justice Department said Sessions was also expected to discuss immigration, drugs and human trafficking with Menendez in El Salvador.

Sessions' visit comes just ahead of a major speech by U.S. President Donald Trump on cross-border gang activity. Trump is scheduled to make that speech Friday in Long Island, New York, where MS-13 members are believed to have been involved in more than a dozen deaths since January 2016.

Sessions has been undergoing heavy criticism from Trump in the past few weeks over his decision to recuse himself from an investigation into possible ties between the Russian government and the Trump presidential campaign.