April 25, 2005

You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide (Forever)

Today's news reports:

Jordanian rebel Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- Iraq's most wanted fugitive -- recently eluded capture by American troops, but left behind a treasure trove of information, a senior military official told ABC News.

On Feb. 20, the alleged terror mastermind was heading to a secret meeting in Ramadi, just west of Fallujah, where he used to base his operations, the official said.

Task Force 626 -- the covert American military unit charged with finding Zarqawi -- had troops in place to grab the fugitive, and mobile vehicle checkpoints had been established around the city's perimeter. Another U.S. official said predator drones were also in flight, tracking movements in and around the city...

What the task force did find in the vehicle confirmed suspicions that Zarqawi had just escaped. The official said Zarqawi's computer and 80,000 euros (about $104,000 U.S.) were discovered in the truck.

Finding the computer, said the official, "was a seminal event." It had "a very big hard drive," the official said, and recent pictures of Zarqawi. The official said Zarqawi's driver and a bodyguard were taken into custody...

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On another front, it looks like our troops have snagged a major heroin dealer, and potential terrorist financier, who operated in Afghanistan. He thought he'd pay the U.S. a visit. That was a mistake.

An Afghan man regarded by the US as one of the world's most wanted heroin traffickers has been arrested, American officials have announced.

Federal prosecutors say the arrest of Bashir Noorzai on US territory will be a severe blow to the Afghan drug trade. A US federal indictment alleges Mr Noorzai has been at the centre of a multi-million dollar heroin operation.

He is expected to appear in a federal court charged with conspiring to import heroin worth $50m (26m).

Last year, US President George Bush named Mr Noorzai as one of the world's most wanted drug traffickers.

Prosecutors allege that since 1990, he has been at the centre of a multi-million dollar heroin operation which controls poppy fields, drug laboratories and a trafficking operation based in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US attorney, David Kelly, said the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had become aware that Mr Noorzai was planning to come to America and that it had "seized the opportunity and the individual".

The US authorities are giving no further details of the arrest. The Americans clearly regard this as a major breakthrough in their war on illegal drugs.

But they also believe that the arrest may have wider implications, claiming that Mr Noorzai had close links with the Taleban and had used drug money to supply Islamic militants with arms and explosives.

*Note: The seemingly overuse of the terms "claim" and "believe" can be attributed to the source of the report: the BBC.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at April 25, 2005 7:28 PM