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A six-week nationwide operation targeting gang members and others with ties to their criminal activity led to the arrest of 55 people in Arizona, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday.

The operation began on March 26 and ended May 6 with a total of 1,378 arrests made nationally, for crimes including drug trafficking, weapon smuggling, human smuggling, sex trafficking, murder and racketeering, the agency said in a statement.

Those numbers represent the “largest gang surge” conducted by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations to date, according ICE.

Arizona arrests included 48 U.S. citizens and seven foreign nationals. Among them were 16 gang members and seven gang associates, ICE said. 

Four of the 16 gang members are foreign nationals, two of whom are wanted in connection with homicides committed around the U.S., the ICE statement said. The other 12 are U.S. citizens.

During the sting, agents arrested a member of the white-supremacist prison gang Aryan Brotherhood after he barricaded himself inside his house in Surprise, ICE said. 

Louie R. Garcia is deputy special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Phoenix.

He said the purpose of the operation was to “target violent criminal gangs that pose a significant threat to our community here in Arizona and nationwide.”

All of those arrested, however, were targeted as part of investigations into criminal activity with connections to transnational criminal organizations, Garcia said.

“We are conducting federal criminal investigations of transnational criminal organizations and in the course of those investigations we identify criminal associates that are both foreign nationals and United States citizens,” he said.

The operation involved local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies. 

The ICE statement said the most activity during the sting took place in the Houston, New York, Newark and Atlanta areas. 

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