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Accused Afghan Drug Lord Handed To U.S. Officials

Afghanistan's drug trade funds Taliban activities
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- U.S. authorities have accused an Afghan man of running a global drug trafficking group and using the money to fund Taliban terrorist activities.

Haji Juma Khan, 54, was handed over to U.S. officials by Indonesia after he arrived in Jakarta from Dubai. The United States had posted an Interpol notice for his arrest. As a result, Indonesia denied him entry and alerted U.S. officials.

Khan is charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics with intent to support a terrorist organization. U.S. authorities say he is among the first defendants to be prosecuted under a 2006 federal narco-terrorism statute.

He arrived in the United States on October 25.

"Proceeds from Haji Juma Khan's global drug trafficking organization funded the terrorist activities of the Taliban," Michele Leonhart, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a statement. "His 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 to worldwide drug markets," she said.

U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said that since 1999, Khan has led an international opium, morphine, and heroin trafficking group that arranged to sell morphine base, an opium derivative that is processed into heroin, in quantities as large as 40 tons -- enough to supply the U.S. heroin market for two years.

The organization is also accused of operating labs in Afghanistan that produced refined heroin, which was sold in quantities as large as 100 kilograms.

U.S. officials said Khan is closely aligned with the Taliban, designated by U.S. President George W. Bush as a global terrorist group since 2002.

"The arrest of Haji Juma Khan is 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," Garcia said in a statement.

If convicted, Khan faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum of 20 years.