Pubdate: Sat, 19 Dec 2009
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Page: A02
Copyright: 2009 The Washington Post Company
Author: Carrie Johnson, Washington Post Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


U.S. prosecutors have charged three alleged al-Qaeda associates with
conspiring to engage in narcoterrorism, attacking what experts say is
a widespread source of illicit funding for terrorist groups across the

Oumar Issa, Harouna Toure and Idriss Abelrahman were brought to New
York early Friday to face conspiracy charges that could send them to
prison for the rest of their lives. They were apprehended in a sting
operation coordinated by federal prosecutors in New York and agents at
the Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States and Ghana,
authorities said.

The allegations "reflect the emergence of a worrisome alliance between
al Qaeda and transnational narcotics traffickers," U.S. Attorney Preet
Bharara said in a statement. "As terrorists diversify into drugs . . .
they provide us with more opportunities to incapacitate them and cut
off the funding for future acts of terror."

The men allegedly met with confidential informants and agreed to move
hundreds of kilograms of cocaine through West and North Africa. The
conspiracy, prosecutors say, supported three groups the United States
has designated as terrorist organizations: al-Qaeda; al-Qaeda in the
Islamic Magreb, an Algerian offshoot founded in the late 1990s with
help from Osama bin Laden; and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de
Colombia (FARC), the world's largest supplier of cocaine, which seeks
to overthrow that country's government.

Toure allegedly served as a business leader of an organization that
worked closely with al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa, and he
described his "strong relationship" with the network in meetings with
a confidential informant cited in court filings. Abelrahman allegedly
led a "militia" of 11 armed men who provided security along the
African route and expressed anti-American sentiments in conversations
with government operatives, the court papers said. All three men
appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV in New York
on Friday, days after the sting culminated in arrests in Ghana on Dec.

The operation took shape in August, when a paid DEA informant posing
as a Lebanese radical encountered Issa, an alleged fixer for a
criminal organization that operated in Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso and
Mali, according to a sworn statement from veteran DEA agent Daria Lupacchino.

The two met in September in Ghana. The informant said he represented
members of FARC, which has targeted U.S. citizens with bombings,
kidnappings and other violence in recent years. Issa told the
informant, in a conversation recorded by authorities, that his
associates had circumvented customs agents and could ensure "safe
passage" through the African desert, the affidavit said.

The informant later met with Toure, identified by Issa as "the main
guy," and verified Toure's identity using a passport he mistakenly
left at a hotel that served as the meeting site, the DEA agent wrote.

"Toure stated that he has worked with al Qaeda to transport and
deliver between one and two tons of hashish to Tunisia and that his
organization and al Qaeda have collaborated in the human smuggling of
Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian subjects into Spain," the Lupacchino
affidavit said.

Toure also allegedly described efforts to kidnap European citizens and
to obtain foreign visas, the court papers said.

Toure and Abelrahman met with informants in mid-November in Ghana,
where they described themselves in the recorded meeting as "kings" of
the desert and "warriors of God." They followed up with meetings as
recently as Monday, two days before their arrest and transfer to U.S.

DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said the case
demonstrated ongoing efforts by the agency to dismantle drug networks
in Africa and around the world. "These narcoterrorists do not respect
borders and do not care who they harm with their drug-trafficking
conspiracies," she said.
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