Night ops

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bout time: 'Most-wanted' arms dealer arrested

This might slow international weapons smuggling for a day or two: 'Most-wanted' arms dealer arrested in Thailand:
Intelligence agencies around the world have tracked Bout for years. Although some of his work has been legitimate, most has not.

He has made deliveries to Africa, Asia and the Mideast using obsolete or surplus Soviet-era cargo planes.

Bout, a former Soviet air force officer who speaks multiple languages, has what is reputed to be the largest private fleet of Soviet-era cargo aircraft in the world, according to U.S. officials.

He acquired the planes shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Department of the Treasury said in 2005.

At that time, the U.S. Treasury announced that it was freezing the assets of Bout and his associates, who are all tied to former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

Taylor is being tried on war crimes charges by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Intelligence officials said Bout shipped large quantities of small arms to civil wars across Africa and Asia, often taking diamonds in payment from West African fighters.

A 2006 article in Foreign Policy magazine said that although Bout served many third-world leaders, he also aided organizations such as the United Nations.

"He made countless trips for the United Nations into the same areas where he supplied the weapons that sparked the humanitarian crises in the first place," the article charged. It said Bout probably committed multiple violations of U.N. arms embargoes.

British intelligence officials found evidence in Afghanistan that Bout had shipped arms to the Taliban and al Qaeda, as well as circumstantial evidence that he shipped weapons technology into Iraq.

And the U.S. government said it received information that Bout profited $50 million from supplying the Taliban with military equipment when they ruled Afghanistan.
More on Mr. Bout here.

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