Four men involved in two drugs-for-weapons rings that allegedly intended to supply Stinger missiles, AK-47 automatic rifles and U.S. carbines to the Taliban and material support to Hezbollah were arrested following a pair of Drug Enforcement Administration sting operations, officials in New York said today.
At least two of those men, Lebanese national Bachar Wehbe and Afghan national Tazar Gul Alizai, are in the U.S. and slated to appear before a federal court in Manhattan, according to federal law enforcement sources.
Investigators said that Gul Aliza, an alleged Taliban member, was busted selling assault rifles and large amounts of heroin to an undercover DEA agent in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Bachar Wehbe, a Lebanese alleged member of Hezbollah, and two other suspected Hezbollah associates were also busted by federal DEA agents posing as high grade weapons dealers. These three were planning to use money from the heroin sales to buy Stinger surface-to-air missiles, AK-47 rifles and M-4 rifles, investigators said.
"In this conspiracy, you have heroin and you have guns and he was doing a deal to get the money back to Hezbollah," Derek Maltz, DEA Special Agent in Charge of Special Operations Division, said. "He signed a contract to bring these massive amounts of weapons to Hezbollah."
Wehbe's alleged confederates, Siavosh Henareh and Cetin Aksu, are in custody in Romania and awaiting extradition to the U.S.
The cases are the third and fourth such weapons stings recently by the DEA including the highly publicized case of international arms broker Victor Bout.
The operations are part of an aggressive expansion of their drug enforcement mission that has enabled federal prosecutors to successful make arms cases that otherwise may not have been brought into the U.S.
"Today's indictments provide fresh evidence of what many of us have been seeing for some time: the growing nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism, a nexus that threatens to become a clear and present danger to our national security," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.