NEW YORK – A Taliban-linked drug lord who allegedly sought to poison U.S. streets with millions of dollars of heroin in a deadly "American jihad" has become the first person extradited from Afghanistan (search) to face federal charges, officials said Monday.
Haji Baz Mohammad (search), one of the world's "most wanted, most powerful and most dangerous" drug kingpins, had helped finance the Taliban by selling opium (search) since 1990, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administrator Karen Tandy said.
"In return, the Taliban (search) protected Mohammad's crops, his heroin labs, his drug transportation labs and his associates," Tandy said after a conspiracy indictment was unsealed accusing Mohammad of smuggling more than $25 million of heroin into the United States and elsewhere.
The defendant was arrested in Afghanistan in January and arrived in the United States on Friday, authorities said.
In his first appearance in court Monday, Mohammad said through an interpreter, "I am innocent." He was ordered held without bail. His lawyer declined to comment afterward.
According to the indictment, Mohammad told associates at his home in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1990 that selling heroin was a form of jihad (search), or Islamic holy war, because they were taking money from Americans while giving them something that was killing them.
U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia (search) said drug dealers such as Mohammad seek "to destabilize Afghanistan's emerging democracy, flood the western markets with heroin and use their profits to support the Taliban and other terrorist groups."
The indictment alleged that Mohammad and co-defendant Bashir Ahmad Rahmany (search) had conspired since 1990 with others to violate narcotics laws. Rahmany was arrested in New York in July and is awaiting trial.
The indictment said the two men led an international heroin-trafficking organization responsible for manufacturing and transporting hundreds of pounds of heroin (search) in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The traffickers then arranged for the heroin to be exported to the United States and other countries in suitcases, clothing and containers and sold for tens of millions of dollars, the indictment said.
If convicted, Mohammad and Rahmany face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years and maximum terms of life in prison.