Tegucigalpa, HONDURAS:  Four unidentified members of the Mara Salvatrucha "MS-13" (juvenile gang) show their tatoos in the unit where they are kept imprisioned in the National Penitentiary in Tamara, 30km north of Tegucigalpa, 01 February 2006. AFP PHOTO/Elmer MARTINEZ  (Photo credit should read ELMER MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
ELMER MARTINEZ/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Tegucigalpa, HONDURAS: Four unidentified members of the Mara Salvatrucha "MS-13" (juvenile gang) show their tatoos in the unit where they are kept imprisioned in the National Penitentiary in Tamara, 30km north of Tegucigalpa, 01 February 2006. AFP PHOTO/Elmer MARTINEZ (Photo credit should read ELMER MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:03
MS-13: America's most dangerous street gang?
Facebook
Now playing
01:09
Police: Bulgarian journalist raped, murdered
Authorities are investigating the scene in East Austin, Texas, after a teenager was killed and a woman was injured in the second Austin package explosion in the past two weeks Monday, March 12, 2018. Authorities say a package that exploded inside of an Austin home on Monday is believed to be linked to a deadly package sent to another home in Texas' capital city earlier this month. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP
Authorities are investigating the scene in East Austin, Texas, after a teenager was killed and a woman was injured in the second Austin package explosion in the past two weeks Monday, March 12, 2018. Authorities say a package that exploded inside of an Austin home on Monday is believed to be linked to a deadly package sent to another home in Texas' capital city earlier this month. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Now playing
02:05
Police: Deadly blasts in Texas connected
Spalding County Sheriff's Office
Now playing
01:28
Second killer pleads guilty in 1983 cold case
Frank Pomeroy, Wife AC360
CNN
Frank Pomeroy, Wife AC360
Now playing
05:55
Pastor's faith stronger after daughter's death
Left to right: Anthony Naiboa, Monica Hoffa, Benjamin Mitchell and Ronald Felton. Tampa homicide victims
Tampa Police Department
Left to right: Anthony Naiboa, Monica Hoffa, Benjamin Mitchell and Ronald Felton. Tampa homicide victims
Now playing
01:21
Tampa killings suspect arrested
CNN HLN
Now playing
00:47
Man to gunman: Shoot at me, not kids
charlottesville gunshot aclu virginia von_00000907.jpg
charlottesville gunshot aclu virginia von_00000907.jpg
Now playing
01:25
Man charged with firing gun at protesters
This undated still image from video provided by WTOV-TV in Steubenville, Ohio, shows Jefferson County, Ohio Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. Bruzzese was shot and wounded Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, as he walked toward his county's courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, and a suspect was killed after a probation officer returned fire, officials said. (WTOV-TV via AP)
WTOV-TV /AP
This undated still image from video provided by WTOV-TV in Steubenville, Ohio, shows Jefferson County, Ohio Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. Bruzzese was shot and wounded Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, as he walked toward his county's courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, and a suspect was killed after a probation officer returned fire, officials said. (WTOV-TV via AP)
Now playing
00:52
Ambushed judge returns fire, suspect dead
FILE- In this Oct. 5, 2016 file photo, Indian spiritual guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, center, greets followers as he arrives for a press conference ahead of the release of his new movie "MSG, The Warrior Lion Heart," in New Delhi, India. Several cities in north India were under a security lock down Thursday ahead of a verdict in a rape trial involving a controversial and hugely popular spiritual leader. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal, File)
Tsering Topgyal/AP
FILE- In this Oct. 5, 2016 file photo, Indian spiritual guru who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, center, greets followers as he arrives for a press conference ahead of the release of his new movie "MSG, The Warrior Lion Heart," in New Delhi, India. Several cities in north India were under a security lock down Thursday ahead of a verdict in a rape trial involving a controversial and hugely popular spiritual leader. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal, File)
Now playing
01:37
Deadly clashes after guru convicted of rape
Isra Chaker
Now playing
01:22
Death of Muslim teen near mosque investigated
Twitter post captions: Police and ambulances on Hackney/Queensbridge Road, possible acid/petrol attack. Lots of @UberEATS @Deliveroo drivers rallied round
@sarah_cobbold/Twitter
Twitter post captions: Police and ambulances on Hackney/Queensbridge Road, possible acid/petrol attack. Lots of @UberEATS @Deliveroo drivers rallied round
Now playing
01:27
5 acid attacks in 1 night in London
Walla News
Now playing
01:34
Authorities: Teen killed for dating Muslim
KDVR
Now playing
00:49
Veteran killed after saving teens
KATC
Now playing
02:06
Questions linger in Louisiana man's death
Bucks County Sheriff's Office
Now playing
01:16
Two men charged in homicides of missing men

Story highlights

MS-13 gang members have been indicted on 41 counts, including seven murder charges

The two slain high school students were beaten with baseball bats and a machete

(CNN) —  

More than a dozen members of the MS-13 gang were indicted Thursday on seven killings on Long Island spanning three years, including the deaths of several high school students last year.

The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said the 13 members of La Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, face offenses including seven murder charges, racketeering, attempted murder, assault, obstruction of justice and arson in the 41-count indictment unsealed Thursday in federal court in Central Islip, New York.

“Law enforcement was determined that these brutal murders wouldn’t turn into cold cases,” US Attorney Robert L. Capers told reporters.

Two of the students – Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16 – were beaten with baseball bats and a machete, Capers said. The girls attended Brentwood High School in Brentwood, a working-class community in Suffolk County, about 45 miles east of New York City.

At the time, police said there appeared to be gang involvement in the girls’ deaths and the deaths of two others, whose skeletal remains were found after they had been missing for months. Police have not announced arrests in the latter two deaths.

“The Brentwood family has spent the last six months in mourning, but today marks the beginning of the healing process for this beautiful and resilient community,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said.

Kayla was involved in a “series of disputes” with MS-13 gang members and associates months earlier, authorities said. She and friends then became involved in an altercation at Brentwood High a week before the girls’ deaths, authorities said. MS-13 members vowed to seek revenge.

On September 13, gang members went looking for rival gang members to kill in Brentwood, authorities said. Prosecutors said gang members, including one man who was indicted, saw the two best friends. The girls had gone for a walk that night, News 12 Long island reported.

They recognized Kayla, and got permission to kill the girls from two gang leaders, who were also indicted, authorities said.

A passerby found Nisa’s body on a Brentwood street on September 13, the eve of her 16th birthday, Sini said. The next day, Kayla’s body was discovered in the backyard of a nearby home.

“My message to the people of Brentwood and all of Suffolk County is that although we are keenly aware that nothing will ever undue the heartbreaking loss of Nisa and Kayla, we can take solace in the fact that their savage murderers will be held accountable,” Sini said.

Authorities said a third Brentwood High School student, Jose Pena, 18, was killed on June 3, 2016. His skeletal remains were discovered on October 17, 2016, in a wooded area that served as a burial ground for MS-13 victims, Capers said.

Pena was killed because he was suspected violating gang rules, federal authorities said.

“His bones bore marks of repeated stab wounds and beatings with a bat, a blunt force instrument,” Capers said.

Sini said Suffolk police have cracked down on gangs. Police have collected intelligence on MS-13 members and created a list of gang members to put under surveillance. Officers have arrested members for various crimes, he said.

Since September 2016, Sini said, 125 MS-13 members have been arrested.

“We are going to eradicate MS-13 from these communities,” Sini said.

MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States, according to federal authorities. An international criminal organization, it has more than 6,000 members in the United States, including a presence in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia, officials said.

More than 30,000 members operate mostly in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, federal authorities said.

MS-13 is the largest and most violent street gang on Long Island, the US Attorney’s Office said.

Capers said two of the suspects are US citizens. A third suspect is a legal permanent resident and the rest are undocumented immigrants, Capers said.

If convicted, the defendants could face up to life in prison or the death penalty.

CNN’s Darran Simon contributed to this report.