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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 01:16 GMT 02:16 UK
Drug money linked to Mid-East groups
Hezbollah supporters celebrate Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon
Officials say some of the drug money goes to Hezbollah
Federal investigators say they have established for the first time that drug traffickers in the United States are channelling millions of dollars to Middle Eastern militant groups.


There is increasing intelligence information... that alleged drug sales in the United States are going in part to support terrorist organisations in the Middle East

Asa Hutchinson
The head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Asa Hutchinson, told an American television network that the link was uncovered during the course of an operation which targeted methamphetamine production in the US earlier this year.

It is not known how much money from the drug sales is being sent to Middle Eastern groups, but it is estimated to be millions of dollars, officials say.

But Mr Hutchinson said that a significant proportion of the money was going to organisations like Hezbollah, which the US considers a terrorist organisation.

Drug ring

More than 130 people, many of them of Middle Eastern origin, are reported to have been arrested after a nationwide sweep earlier this year.

Officials say the suspects were smuggling large amounts of the drug pseudoephedrine - a chemical used to make methamphetamine - from Canada into the Midwest.

The drug ring was broken up in January as part of a DEA investigation called Operation Mountain Express.

Authorities say some of the proceeds from the drug sales were being sent to accounts traced to Hezbollah and accounts in Yemen and Lebanon.

Officials say it is the first time they have evidence that money from drug sales in the US is funding terror groups abroad.

"We've known for decades that there's been a connection between illegal drug trafficking and terrorist activity. That was true in Colombia and in Afghanistan," Mr Hutchinson said.

"But we didn't see the drug sales in the United States funding terrorist activity.

"There is increasing intelligence information from the investigation that for the first time alleged drug sales in the United States are going in part to support terrorist organisations in the Middle East."

See also:

02 Sep 02 | Business
02 Sep 02 | Business
22 Jun 02 | Middle East
22 Jul 00 | Americas
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