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Prosecutors disclose indictments in terrorist drug, gun plots

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: All four defendants have been arrested; two are already in the United States
  • Federal prosecutors say 4 men tried to import heroin to fund and arm terrorist groups
  • The sales would have benefited the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hezbollah in Lebanon, they say
  • Arms included surface-to-air missiles and assault rifles, officials say

New York (CNN) -- Federal prosecutors unveiled indictments Tuesday accusing four men of plotting to import drugs into the United States and Europe to provide funds and guns for the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

According to the investigators, one indictment involves what began as a large heroin deal that quickly morphed into a $9.5 million arms sale the men thought was to benefit Hezbollah, U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara said.

In that investigation, authorities allege two men, Siavosh Henareh and Cetin Asku, traveled through Europe and Southeast Asia to arrange deals to acquire more than 1,100 pounds of heroin for sale in the United States and Europe.

They believed the profits from the drug sales would benefit Hezbollah, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. They were actually working with informants of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to the indictment.

Asku and another man named in the indictment, Bachar Wehbe, allegedly signed a contract on June 13 in Malaysia for what Bharara described as a "veritable arsenal of weapons," including 148 surface-to-air missiles and 6,000 firearms in a deal valued at $9.5 million.

Wehbe told the informants that he was buying the weapons at Hezbollah's instructions, according to the indictment. He helped arrange for a $100,000 down payment on the weapons, the indictment alleges.

The other indictment involves a Kandahar drug and weapons broker named Taza Gul Alizai, Bharara said. Authorities allege he agreed to sell heroin and machine guns to a man posing as a representative of the Taliban, but who was actually a confidential informant for the DEA.

None of the drugs reached U.S. shores, said Derek Maltz, special agent in charge of the DEA's special operations division.

Authorities in the Maldives have arrested Wehbe and Gul Alizai. They were flown to the United States and were expected to appear in court on Tuesday, Bharara said.

Romanian authorities took Henareh and Asku into custody. They are awaiting extradition, Bharara said.