Afghan charged in N.Y. drug-terrorism case

/ Source: The Associated Press

An Afghan man was brought to the United States on Friday to face charges that he led an international drug trafficking organization that helped fund the Taliban to fight Americans, prosecutors said.

An indictment unsealed in Manhattan accused Haji Juma Khan, 54, of conspiring to produce massive amounts of drugs in two southern Afghanistan provinces since at least 1999. Prosecutors said he was one of the first to be prosecuted under a 2006 federal narco-terrorism law.

Prosecutors said his organization produced quantities as large as 40 tons of morphine base, an opium derivative that can be processed into heroin. Forty tons would be enough to supply the entire U.S. heroin market for more than two years, they said.

The bearded Khan wore a white headdress during an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where he was brought after arriving in the United States earlier in the day.

"I am not guilty," he said.

His lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, declined to comment.

Detained in Indonesia
On Thursday, Khan was detained in Indonesia and turned over to the United States, which had sent a notice to Interpol that he was being sought, authorities said. Khan had just arrived in Jakarta on a flight from Dubai, they said.

Prosecutors said Khan was closely aligned with the Taliban, which controlled Afghanistan until it was removed from power after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

They said Khan has supported the Taliban's efforts to forcibly remove the United States from Afghanistan by providing financial support. In return, Khan's drug operation was protected by the Taliban, the indictment said.

U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia called the arrest "another significant step in the continuing effort to combat terrorism by stopping the flow of narcotics proceeds that help fund the Taliban and other terrorist organizations."

Michele M. Leonhart, Drug Enforcement Administration acting administrator, said the arrest "disrupts a significant line of credit to the Taliban and will shake the foundation of his drug network that has moved massive quantities of heroin of worldwide drug markets."

According to the indictment, Afghanistan is the world's largest heroin producing and trafficking country, accounting for about 90 percent of the opium poppy used to produce heroin.

The indictment said Khan's drug trafficking organization operated primarily in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces.