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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
US arrests Afghan 'heroin baron'
By Jeremy Cooke
BBC News, New York

Bashir Noorzai
Mr Noorzai was named as one of the world's most wanted drug barons
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).

'Militant financier'

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.

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