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Officials: Va.-NY cigarette scheme has Hamas links; 2 smuggling suspects held in Md.

Authorities say some of the suspects charged in a Virginia-to-New York cigarette smuggling scheme have links to top officials of Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.

New York law enforcers outlined the alleged links Thursday while announcing that 16 people are charged in the smuggling case.

Investigators are still trying to determine where illicit proceeds ended up. Authorities say that in the past, similar schemes have helped fund terrorist groups. The U.S and Israel consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization.

Two of the smuggling defendants are being held without bond at a county jail in Snow Hill, Md. Court records in Maryland show they were arrested Wednesday.

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