June 16, 2005

Mexico : Pakistani arms suspect investigated

Thursday, June 16, 2005 Posted: 12:17 PM EDT (1617 GMT)

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Mexico is investigating what a Pakistani
national wanted by the United States for allegedly selling anti-aircraft
missiles was doing in a beach community outside Tijuana, President Vicente
Fox's spokesman said Thursday.

Acting on intelligence provided by the United States, Mexican authorities
captured Arif Durrani earlier this week as he left a restaurant in Playas de
Rosarito, near the Tijuana-San Diego border, spokesman Ruben Aguilar said.

Durrani, 55, had entered Mexico from the United States but at the time of
his arrest could not provide documents proving he had done so legally,
Aguilar said.

Durrani was deported by Mexico late Wednesday, but he was taken into U.S.
custody when his flight to Pakistan stopped in Los Angeles.

Aguilar said Mexico has not charged Durrani with wrongdoing, but its
authorities were still investigating.

"Arif Durrani is facing an arrest warrant in the United States for the crime
of international trafficking of anti-aircraft missiles," Aguilar said. "He
is a fugitive from U.S. justice."

Aguilar noted that Mexico does not produce such missiles.

Durrani, a former U.S. resident, was convicted in the United States in 1987
of selling missile parts to Iran and served five years in prison. He was
deported from the United States in 1998 and apparently has lived in Mexico
since then.

It was unclear whether the current investigation was related to Durrani's
prior conviction. He had claimed to have acted as part of the 1980s
Iran-Contra scandal, in which arms were sold to Iran to finance Nicaraguan
rebels when the U.S. Congress had barred such aid.

In 2003, Durrani petitioned a U.S. court to have his conviction overturned
and asked to review more government documents to try to prove he sold the
parts at the behest of former Lt. Col. Oliver North and other U.S.

Durrani claims he was part of Washington's effort to exchange arms for
American hostages held in Lebanon. He said North, a former National Security
Council aide, told him to ship the missile parts to Iran and not to worry
about getting an export license.

Durrani was detained with three Afghan-born men and a Syrian, all of whom
apparently entered Tijuana from the United States. Aguilar said Thursday the
other four were simply detained on immigration violations "and nothing

The Afghans and the Syrian are U.S. citizens or residents, and all were
deported to the United States on Wednesday.

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