Report: Officials close in on arms dealer

Feb. 26, 2002 at 4:25 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- A key associate gave information to U.S. and European investigators to help them find an arms dealer suspected of supplying weapons to the Taliban and the al Qaida network, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Investigators working to crack what some have called the largest weapons trafficking operation in the world, were aided by Sanjivan Ruprah, said to be a close associate to Victor Bout, a former Soviet military officer operating from United Arab Emirates, the Post reported. Ruprah was arrested in Belgium earlier this month, U.S. and European officials told the Post.

Ruprah provided details about Bout's suspected arms deliveries to the Taliban and the al Qaida terror network in Afghanistan, the report said. Bout had long been suspected of supplying weapons to the terror groups, which are blamed for Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Bout's arms dealing operation is thought to be unique because of its ability to deliver weapon systems quickly anywhere in the world, investigators told the Post. He is also thought to supply the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and rebel forces in Africa.

Officials said Bout was thought to have been flying weapons to Afghanistan more recently than had been believed. They said Rout buys weapons from Bulgaria and Romania. Bout has refused to talk to reporters or U.N. investigators, the Post said.

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