Identified by President George Bush as one of the world's most-wanted drug kingpins, Baz Mohammad stands accused of heading an international organisation responsible for smuggling more than $25 million worth of heroin into the United States and other countries since 1990.

"The extradition of Baz Mohammad, a drug kingpin with links to the Taliban, is an historic step in our work with the Afghan people to end the dual threat of narco-terrorism," said US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"This first-ever extradition from Afghanistan sends a clear message to drug lords around the world: Those who seek to destroy American lives will be brought to justice," Gonzales said in a statement.

Jihad

According to an indictment unsealed in federal court there, Mohammad, who was brought to New York last week, told members of his organisation that selling heroin in the United States was an act of jihad because they were taking Americans' money for a product that would kill them.

Mohammad allegedly had close links to the former Taliban government in Afghanistan that was overthrown from power in a US-led operation in 2001. The indictment accused his organisation of using heroin proceeds from the United States for the Taliban.

He is also believed to have had ties with several other Islamic extremist groups.

The indictment said Mohammad controlled opium fields in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. The opium harvest was processed into heroin in laboratories in Afghanistan and Pakistan and then shipped to the United States inside suitcases, clothing and containers.

"We've put an end to the safe haven of an Afghan drug lord who orchestrated an international heroin conspiracy that poisoned Americans," said Karen Tandy, administrator of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The first ever extradition of a drug trafficker from Afghanistan proves that justice and the will of the people to be free from the tyranny of the drug trade will prevail," she added.

If convicted, Mohammad faces a maximum sentence of life in
prison.