Selling Drugs to Fund Terror: Al Qaeda Linked to Cocaine Trafficking

Three al Qaeda operatives to be charged in New York.

ByABC News
December 18, 2009, 12:05 PM

Dec. 18, 2009 — -- Three men linked to al Qaeda and arrested in Africa by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents following a cocaine sting operation have been extradited to New York and are slated to appear in federal court in Manhattan today, according to federal sources.

The arrests confirm the suspicions of the DEA that al Qaeda is providing protection for narcotics traffic and using the proceeds "to facilitate terror operations," federal sources said. Oumar Issa, Harouna Toure and Idress Abelrahman will be charged with conspiracy to commit acts of narcoterrorism and conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization after allegedly agreeing to transport cocaine shipments as large as 1,000 kilos.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST ISSA, TOURE AND ABELRAHAM

According to DEA officials, the cocaine sting was orchestrated along a route through West Africa to North Africa that serves as a gateway for transshipment to Europe. The men were arrested after an investigation in which informants and agents posed as Latin American narco-terrorists who shared anti-American interests with the men.

"What this case demonstrates is that these three associates had very clear connections with AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb)," Russ Benson, the DEA regional director for Europe and Africa, told The Blotter. The three men allegedly provided protection for the large loads of cocaine that had to be transshipped through the desert to Morocco with Spain as an ultimate destination, Benson said.

According to Benson, Colombian cartel bosses have imported wholesale the successful transshipment techniques they used in Latin America, and sent into West Africa prison-toughened traffickers like Jorge Salinas Cortez, who was recently expelled from the region. Linking the traffickers' greed with Al Qaeda's ability to protect shipments has presented the DEA with a challenging mission in "some tough areas," said Benson.

"But in this case we were able to infiltrate….(and) during the negotiations they indicated they were associated with Al Qaeda and could protect the shipment from West Africa to North Africa and ultimately to Spain."

Issa, Toure and Abelrahman claim to be from Mali, sources say. The operatives who conducted the sting posed as members of the Colombian revolutionary group FARC.

According to Benson, Colombian cartel bosses have imported wholesale the successful transshipment techniques they used in Latin America, and sent into West Africa prison-toughened traffickers like Jorge Salinas Cortez, who was recently expelled from the region. Linking the traffickers' greed with Al Qaeda's ability to protect shipments has presented the DEA with a challenging mission in \"some tough areas,\" said Benson.

\"But in this case we were able to infiltrate….(and) during the negotiations they indicated they were associated with Al Qaeda and could protect the shipment from West Africa to North Africa and ultimately to Spain.\"

Issa, Toure and Abelrahman claim to be from Mali, sources say. 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