WASHINGTON – Seven people, including two US citizens, were charged in connection with a plot to aid the Afghan Taliban by sending weapons to the insurgents and moving tons of Afghan heroin through West Africa, officials said Monday.
The US Justice Department said the two Americans were charged with conspiracy to sell surface-to-air missiles, automatic rifles and other weapons to the Taliban to help the rebels protect their narcotics operations.
The two Americans, identified as Alwar Pouryan and Oded Orbach, were arrested in Romania last week and are being held for extradition to the United States, a statement said.
Five others, who operated drug trafficking rings in Benin and elsewhere in Africa, were indicted in connection with a scheme "to receive, store, and move ton-quantities of Taliban-owned heroin through West Africa, portions of which they understood would then be sent to the United States," the statement said.
Some also plotted to sell cocaine in the United States to benefit the Taliban.
The five, identified as Maround Saade, Walid Nasr, Francis Sourou Ahissou, Corneille Dato and Martin Raouf Bouraima, were arrested in Monrovia, Liberia, in coordination with Liberian authorities, on February 10 and 12, and later transferred to US custody, officials said.
A complaint charging the two Americans and an indictment charging six of the defendants was unsealed in New York Monday following undercover investigations involving US agents who negotiated for deals on weapons and drugs.
US Attorney Preet Bharara said the accused "were prepared to provide millions of dollars in dangerous narcotics and lethal weapons to men they believed represented the Taliban."
He added, "This alleged effort to arm and enrich the Taliban is the latest example of the dangers of an interconnected world in which terrorists and drug runners can link up across continents to harm Americans. We will continue to work with our trusted law enforcement partners here and abroad to incapacitate and hold accountable anyone who takes steps to assist enemies of the United States."
Officials said agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration working undercover were in contact with the defendants and held a series of meeting over several months in Benin, Ghana, Ukraine, and Romania.