updated 2/23/2005 9:21:52 PM ET 2005-02-24T02:21:52

A man wanted by the Honduran government for a bus massacre that killed 28 people, including six children, was arrested this month in Texas, the Homeland Security Department said Wednesday.

Authorities described the man, Ebner Anibal Rivera-Paz, who also goes by the name of Franko Jairo Rivera Hernandez, as the reputed leader of the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang in Honduras.

The Central American gang, which has members in this country, is considered violent, and U.S. officials are concerned that they might help sneak al-Qaida terrorists into the United States.

Rivera-Paz was arrested Feb. 10 by the Texas highway patrol about 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexican border. He was turned over to the Border Patrol for processing. An investigation that included the FBI confirmed he was wanted by the Honduran government, the Homeland Security Department said in a statement.

Authorities suspect he was involved in a bus massacre Dec. 23 outside the northern city of San Pedro Sula, about 125 miles north of the Honduras capital, Tegucigalpa.

The bus was filled with workers returning home and Christmas shoppers.

The armed men cut off the bus and fired inside and outside it. There were 56 people on the bus, mostly women and children.

The gunmen claimed in a message left on the bus’s windshield that they were part of a previously unknown revolutionary group opposed to the death penalty. Executions were stopped in the 1950s.

The announcement of the arrest comes as law enforcement officials from across the United States and Central America are meeting in San Salvador to discuss ways to keep the gang from extending its influence.

James Loy, deputy Homeland Security secretary, told Congress last week there was growing intelligence suggesting al-Qaida was considering entering the United States across the Mexican border, although he had nothing conclusive. He said that in addition to al-Qaida, “we are seeing the emergence of other threatening groups and gangs like MS-13 that will also be destabilizing influences.”

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