(Adds details, background, Rosen quote)
WASHINGTON, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The United States has charged 14 leaders of the international criminal gang MS-13 on terrorism charges, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Thursday, part of an intensified crackdown on the group.
The indictment, filed in Central Islip, New York, and unsealed on Thursday, charged the individuals with conspiracies to support terrorists, commit acts of terrorism and finance terrorism, according to the department.
"The indictment announced today is the highest-reaching and most sweeping indictment targeting MS-13 and its command and control structure in U.S. history," acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement.
The department said that Borromeo Enrique Henriquez, considered the most powerful member of Ranfla Nacional, which the U.S. government said comprises the highest level of MS-13 leadership, as well as 10 other people were in custody in El Salvador. The United States would "explore options for their extradition," it said.
Three of the defendants, Fredy Ivan Jandres-Parada, Cesar Humberto Lopez-Larios and Hugo Armando Quinteros-Mineros remain at large and should be considered armed and dangerous, the department said.
The FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have offered $20,000 in rewards for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the three, the statement said.
In July, the department said it was stepping up a crackdown on the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang and would seek the death penalty against an accused New York gang leader facing murder charges.
U.S. President Donald Trump has previously linked the fight against the gang with his campaign against illegal immigration. Critics of the administration's tactics argue that the crackdown has also unlawfully detained immigrant teens accused of gang affiliation. (Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)