updated 3/3/2004 8:49:46 PM ET 2004-03-04T01:49:46

Two defendants admitted their roles Wednesday in a plot to sell Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Taliban and al-Qaida, authorities said.

The pair admitted they planned to sell 5 tons of hashish and a half-ton of Pakistani heroin in exchange for cash and four shoulder-fired Stinger missiles, which they intended to sell to the Taliban. Such missiles can be used to shoot down airplanes, including commercial jets.

In a plea bargain, Ilyas Ali, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in India, and Muhamed Abid Afridi of Pakistan pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to distribute heroin and hashish, according to the U.S. attorney’s office

The case against a third defendant, Syed Mustajab Shah of Pakistan, is pending.

Both defendants who pleaded guilty Wednesday knew that the Taliban and al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, were “virtually synonymous,” prosecutor Michael Skerlos said.

The men are to be sentenced in federal court June 29. The plea agreement recommends 5-year prison terms for both.

Their attorneys declined to comment.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said that “America is safer and its citizens are more secure” because of the prosecution.

Shah, Ali and Afridi were arrested in September 2002 by police in Hong Kong who received a tip from the FBI. The three were secretly videotaped in meetings days earlier with undercover FBI agents at a Hong Kong hotel. Ali also met in April 2002 with an undercover agent in San Diego.

During a jailhouse interview with The Associated Press in Hong Kong, Ali said he ran a deli and grocery in St. Paul, Minn., and was set up by the FBI.

U.S. law enforcers “screwed up 9/11, and now they’re arresting innocent people for political purposes,” he said.

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