Federal officials in New York have announced the arrest Monday of an alleged Afghan heroin trafficker, whom the White House has previously identified as one of the world's most wanted drug kingpins.
Federal authorities say Haji Bashir Noorzai was arrested in New York on charges of trying to smuggle more than $50 million worth of heroin into the United States.
John Gilbride, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office, says drug enforcement officials consider Mr. Noorzai one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world.
"He was arrested because of his overseeing a worldwide heroin trafficking network that shipped hundreds of kilos of heroin, not only to the United States, but other countries throughout the world," he said.
Mr. Gilbride says drug enforcement agents have known of Mr. Noozai's heroin production and distribution network since at least 1990. "Noorzai controlled the poppies, the poppy fields, the heroin laboratories, as well as the transportation routes. So, it is similar to a cartel, in terms of all aspects, from the beginning to the end, from the growing of the poppies to the heroin hitting the streets of New York City, or any other city in the world, are controlled by the organization," he said.
Announcing the arrest, U.S. prosecutor David Kelley said Mr. Noorzai had what he described as a "symbiotic relationship" with the Taleban, exchanging weapons and manpower with the group in return for protection. But he stopped short of linking Mr. Noorzai's drug network with Osama bin Laden.
In June, President Bush placed Bashir Noorzai' s name on a list of foreign drug kingpins who represent a threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.