US charges men over 'Taliban links'

Seven men, including two US citizens, accused of aiding Afghan fighters by selling them weapons and dealing in drugs.

    Seven men, including two US citizens, have been charged in New York with selling drugs and weapons in an alleged effort to help the Taliban fight American troops overseas.

    In meetings in Benin, Romania, Ghana and the Ukraine, the men are alleged to have agreed to transport and sell heroin for informants posing as members of the Taliban, which is deemed a terrorist group by the US.

    The men also agreed to sell the informants surface-to-air missiles for use in Afghanistan, authorities said.

    Charges were filed against Maroun Saade, Walid Nasir, Francis Sourou Ahissou, Corneille Dato, Martin Raouf Bouraima, Oded Orbach and Alwar Pouryan.

    Saade and Nasr are Lebanese, Bouraima and Dato are from Benin, and Ahissou is Togolese,  prosecutors said.

    The two US citizens, Orbach and Pouryan, were arrested in Romania last week and are being held there while they await extradition home.

    The others were arrested last week in Liberia, where they are in US custody. All are expected to be prosecuted in New York.

    Anti-aircraft missiles

    The supposed Taliban representatives told the men that the drugs would be sold to help finance Taliban operations against the US, court documents said.

    "Saade responded that it would please him to support the Taliban's cause,'' prosecutors wrote in the indictment.

    As the drug relationship blossomed, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) also began negotiating to buy anti-aircraft missiles and automatic weapons, prosecutors said.

    Those inquiries led the DEA to the two US citizens, who discussed selling anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers and other weapons to the Taliban.

    "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," US attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

    Prosecutors said they believe the men were working with a co-conspirator in Lebanon. The co-conspirator was not named.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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