NEW YORK -- Seven men, including two American citizens, were charged Monday with selling drugs and weapons in an effort to help the Taliban fight U.S. troops overseas.
Posing as representatives of the Taliban, cooperating witnesses for the Drug Enforcement Administration approached the men in Ghana last June, asking to set up a drug relationship, prosecutors said. First, the cooperators asked if they could buy large amounts of cocaine, according to court documents. Then, they asked if the men could set up safe places in West Africa to store heroin on its way from Afghanistan to the United States, Canada and Europe.
Terrorism charges were filed against Maroun Saade, Walid Nasir, Francis Sourou Ahissou, Corneille Dato, Martin Raouf Bouraima, Oded Orbach and Alwar Pouryan.
Prosecutors said the two U.S. citizens, Orbach and Pouryan, were arrested in Romania last week and are being held there while they await extradition to the United States. The others were arrested last week in Liberia, where they are in U.S. custody. All are expected to be prosecuted in New York.
The supposed Taliban representatives told the men that the drugs would be sold to help finance Taliban operations against the United States, 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 DEA also began negotiating to buy anti-aircraft missiles and automatic weapons, prosecutors said. Those inquiries led the DEA to Orbach and Pouryan, who discussed selling anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers and other weapons to the Taliban.
An e-mail seized by prosecutors revealed a price list ranging from $120 or so for an M16 rifle to $87,000 and up for a Javelin anti-take missile. Prosecutors said they believe the men were working with a co-conspirator in Lebanon. The co-conspirator was not named.
"Today, we eliminated an entrenched global criminal network, preventing it from moving ton quantities of cocaine, laundering millions in drug money, and trading arms to the Taliban to undermine the rule of law and kill Americans," DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said.