By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A grand jury has indicted 34 members of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, including four "generals," on criminal charges that could result in the death penalty or life in prison, federal prosecutors said on Friday.
The suspected white supremacist gang members, 14 of whom were arrested in a massive raid on Friday, face charges including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, assault and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.
"Today's takedown represents a devastating blow to the leadership of the ABT," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in announcing the major operation in Houston.
The gang uses violence to maintain discipline within the organization and to retaliate against those believed to be cooperating with police, Breuer said.
"Brutal beatings, fire bombings, drug trafficking and murder are all part of ABT's standard operating procedure," Breuer said.
The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas was founded in the 1980s as a white-only gang inside the Texas prison system, where court testimony in a series of cases at the time indicated that convicts were free to maintain their own type of order.
The group, which was modeled after the 1960s-era Aryan Brotherhood of California, quickly branched out to illegal enterprises inside and outside of prison.
The multi-year investigation and indictments target "the worst of the worst" of the gang, said Stephen Morris, the agent in charge of the FBI field office in Houston.
Among those indicted by a federal grand jury are members of the governing committee of gang "generals," who are in charge of heading the criminal enterprises and enforcing discipline.
One of the men indicted is charged with killing a prospective gang member and making the killing "as messy as possible" to deter gang members from cooperating with law enforcement, Breuer said.
A total of 72 gang members have been charged or convicted in federal courts, Breuer said.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Eric Walsh)