Two Pakistani Drug Lords Extradited to Face US Charges
NEW YORK (AP) _ Two of Pakistan’s most notorious drug barons were on their way to the United States on Monday to face charges of heroin and hashish trafficking, U.S. officials said.
Iqbal Baig and Anwar Khattak, already serving prison terms in Pakistan for drug smuggling, left that country Sunday evening just hours after a high court in Rawalpindi rejected their appeals of a U.S. demand for extradition.
There was no word from federal authorities on exactly where or when they would arrive in the United States.
U.S. Justice Department sources in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the final destination was federal court in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, where the two would be arraigned on 102 counts of drug smuggling.
The FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn all said they had no information about the case.
A Justice Department official described Baig, about 58, as Pakistan’s top drug lord and Khattak, 43, as a close associate. In 20 years of drug smuggling, both became wealthy and politically influential and traveled with armed bodyguards, the official said.
He said Baig also is charged with conducting a criminal enterprise under the federal ``drug kingpin″ law.
Monday’s extradition appeared timed to precede Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s visit to the United States, which begins Wednesday.
The United States has pressured Pakistan to crack down on drug trafficking, and Ms. Bhutto wants U.S. aid to combat drug smuggling and terrorism in Pakistan, which she portrays as a moderate Islamic state in need of Western help.
Opium poppies are widely grown in neighboring Afghanistan, where law and order collapsed during 16 years of war. Opium is transported to western Pakistan, refined into heroin and shipped on to Europe and the United States.
In 1993, the United States gave Pakistan a list of 17 suspected drug lords that it wanted extradited. Seven were sent here that year and most of the others are held in Pakistan. Baig and Khattak were arrested in Lahore in 1993 and later convicted of drug smuggling.
This case is the second high-profile extradition of a suspect from Pakistan to the United States in recent months. Ramzi Yousef, accused of masterminding the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center, was arrested in Islamabad on Feb. 7 and flown to New York to face trial.