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 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 09:44 GMT
'Al-Qaeda dealers' face US trial
Three men who allegedly tried to sell drugs in exchange for weapons for the al-Qaeda network have agreed to be extradited from Hong Kong to the United States.

Suspects Muhammed Abid Afridi, right, of Pakistan and US citizen Ilyas Ali, left
The men originally opposed their extradition
The three were caught in an FBI operation in Hong Kong in September.

The three men - two Pakistanis and an Indian-born US citizen - are accused by the FBI of trying to sell heroin and hashish in return for anti-aircraft missiles, which they planned to sell to al-Qaeda.

FBI agents interceded, posing as buyers for the drugs, and the three men were arrested while in Hong Kong.

The US requested their extradition, which was until now opposed by the three men.

California trial

But now they have apparently changed their minds and decided not to fight extradition.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, must now formally agree to the extradition. Lawyers said this would probably take a few weeks.

The men - Syed Saadat, 54, Muhammed Abid Afridi, 29, both from Pakistan, and US citizen Ilyas Ali, 55, are expected to face trial in California, where they first met the FBI agents.

The men were allegedly engaged in discussions with undercover FBI agents to smuggle 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) of heroin and five tonnes of hashish into the US in exchange for four shoulder-fired Stinger missiles that can shoot down low flying civilian jetliners or military aircraft.

They are charged with conspiracy to import and distribute heroin and hashish, and of providing material support to a terrorist organisation.

The drug charges each carry up to life in prison and fines of $4m, while supporting terrorists carries up to 15 years and a fine of $250,000.

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  The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Hong Kong
"This was obviously an operation conducted by the FBI"

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