- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

Four men have been arrested in a suspected $25 million drugs-for-weapons scheme involving Colombian rebels, while three others were indicted in a separate plot to trade drugs for anti-aircraft missiles for the al Qaeda terrorist network.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said yesterday that the two conspiracies involved the pending sales in Houston and Hong Kong of shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles; 53 million rounds of ammunition; 9,000 assault weapons, including AK-47 sniper rifles; 300 pistols; rocket-propelled grenade launchers; and 300,000 grenades.
"Terrorism and drug trafficking thrive in the same conditions. They feed off each other," Mr. Ashcroft said in announcing the arrests and indictments. "This afternoon, our citizens are more secure because a group of dedicated public servants has broken the link, in two instances at least, between terrorism and drug trafficking."
In custody are Carlos Ali Romero Varela, 43, and Uwe Jensen, 66, both of Houston, along with Elkin Arroyave-Ruiz, also known as Commandant Napo, and Edgar Fernando Blanco-Puerta, known as Commandant Emilio, both high-ranking leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or the AUC.
The Houston-based operation is accused of plotting to deliver $25 million worth of weapons to the AUC in exchange for drugs. Charges include conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Mr. Arroyave-Ruiz and Mr. Blanco-Puerta were arrested Tuesday in Costa Rica while purportedly finalizing the drugs-for-weapons deal. Mr. Varela was taken into custody later that day, also in Costa Rica. Mr. Jensen was arrested Tuesday night in Houston. They were arrested based on a sealed criminal complaint filed in Houston.
Undercover agents met the men on several occasions in Houston, Panama, St. Croix and London, with a final rendezvous in Costa Rica, according to an affidavit in the case.
The agents communicated with the men through e-mails, one of which included a note from an AUC commander saying his associates must have a "visual inspection of the whole farm," believed to be the weapons, before terms could be settled, the affidavit said.
A meeting April 28 at a warehouse in St. Croix, during which one of the suspects and an AUC weapons expert inspected a cache of Russian-made weapons provided by the FBI, was also videotaped, the affidavit said.
Mr. Ashcroft said Mr. Romero and Mr. Jensen sought to broker the drugs-for-weapons deal with the two AUC leaders. He said the men were arrested after a 14-month undercover investigation known as "Operation White Terror," conducted by a task force of FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
The undercover investigation began a week after the September 11 attacks.
The AUC, whose leader, Carlos Castano-Gil, was charged with five counts of drug trafficking in September, is an 8,000-member Colombian right-wing paramilitary group listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
Colombian police said the AUC was responsible for 804 assassinations, 203 kidnappings and 75 massacres with 507 victims in the first 10 months of 2000.
In San Diego, indictments were unsealed yesterday naming two Pakistani nationals, Syed Mustajab Shah and Muhammed Abid Afridi, and a naturalized U.S. citizen from India, Ilyas Ali, in a conspiracy to provide Stinger missiles to anti-U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

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