Drug and terrorism charges against three men from Ghana were announced earlier today by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
The men, who arrived in the United States Thursday night after being deported, allegedly agreed to smuggle cocaine through West and North Africa and into Spain with the intent of helping Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb and the FARC rebels in Columbia.
The charges stem from a four-month DEA investigation in which the defendants allegedly told confidential DEA sources who claimed to be FARC representatives that they had a transit route and that Al Qaeda would provide protection.
“Today’s allegations reflect the emergence of a worrisome alliance between Al Qaeda and transnational narcotics traffickers,” said the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. “As terrorists diversify into drugs, however, they provide us with more opportunities to incapacitate them and cut off the funding for future acts of terror.”
While The New York Times reports that is “the first time such charges had been brought against people said to be Al Qaeda,” the fact is that law enforcement officials have long maintained there’s a link between Al Qaeda and drug smuggling.
When I was working at The New York Sun in 2003, I broke the story of how the feds were investigating a ring of heroin dealers operating out of fried chicken shops and sending the proceeds back to Afghanistan where they thought it was used by Al Qaeda to fund operations.
While prosecutors never brought terrorism-related charges against the men, they did eventually arrest nine of them on drug charges — charges which sent most of them to jail.
“Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin about $3 billion a year in profits — money that helps finance the Taliban and other militant groups,” Senator John Kerry said at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee n September.
More to come on this.