Friday, August 02, 2002

Arms Case Indicates Link between Arms Procurers and Government of Pakistan ?

John Mintz's story today in the Washington Post indicates that Federal Invesitgaotrs are now re-examining a recent arms smuggling case in FLorida to determine whether the Pakistani government tried to buy missile components in the US for use either by terrorists or the Pakistani military. The sting oringinally occurred in June 2001 and resulted in a single guilty plea and the sealing of court files for anothe defendant. Mintz's reporting suggests that the Federal prosecutors removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns. While Pakistani officials have responded by saying the Pakistani government doesn't buy weapons on the black market, the U.S. seems to think that the buyers were indeed connected in some way to the Government of Pakistan.

"Mohsen, meanwhile, introduced the undercover agents to a friend, Mohammed "Mike" Malik, a Jersey City deli owner originally from Pakistan. Mohsen said Malik, in turn, could connect them to the ultimate buyers, who Mohsen identified as "the intelligence of Pakistan" and as people close to Afghanistan's Taliban regime and al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

Malik met many times with Stoltz over the next two years, saying that his clients in Pakistan wanted to buy hundreds of Stingers, TOW antitank missiles, many varieties of rockets and artillery, night-vision goggles and even "heavy water," which can be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Pakistanis who said they represented the buyers in Islamabad flew to Florida several times to negotiate with Stoltz. At various points, Malik and these middlemen said that they represented Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The ISI, they said, was seeking weapons for the Pakistani military and for terrorist groups Islamabad has sponsored in the disputed Kashmir region along the Indian border.

U.S. officials say that at least before Sept. 11, elements of ISI and Pakistan's military worked closely with bin Laden, the Taliban and Kashmiri terrorists.

At one point, one of Malik's middlemen arranged for Stoltz to speak by telephone with a man in Pakistan who he described as a top Pakistani military procurement officer. U.S. officials say they are convinced the man holds that job."

This is going to be an interesting story.


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