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Major International Arms Trafficker Arrested in Spain

Filed under: Europe

Monzer al-Kassar, an international arms dealers responsible for tens of millions of dollars in munitions going to rogue states and terrorist organizations, was arrested last night as he flew into the Barajas airport here in Madrid. His two associates, Tareq Mousa Al Ghaza, a Syrian national, and Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy, a Chilean national, were arrested in Romania.

Al-Kassar is one of the biggest arms dealers in the world. He has sent weapons to nearly every major insurgent group and dictatorship in the world, often funding both sides of a conflict. I mean everyone. Military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina, Colombian Marxist rebels, the PLO, Iraqi insurgents, Yugoslav war criminals, you name it. He's been tried before but there was never enough direct evidence to put him in jail. Now they've got him. Having this guy rot in prison with no access to the outside world will be a boon to humanity.

I haven't read any of the news reports yet, but now that they've gone and done the press conference I might as well spill what I've learned while I was at the embassy today.

The operation took over four years, with DEA agents posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. They basically inked out a deal with al-Kassar to ship thousands of assault rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, and even rocket grenade launchers and surface to air missiles to the FARC. It basically got down to the point where the weapons were all ready to be shipped out and he got nabbed just beforehand. In fact, al-Kassar has a compound just outside of Madrid where Spanish officials are expecting to find the weapons cache.

Arresting al-Kassar came after a provisional arrest request by the United States, and the takedown was coordinated between Spanish authorities, the Embassy, the DEA, and Southern District of NY's US Attorney's Office. The next step is to file the extradition request, and Spain is apparently very happy to do so. Here is a list of the charges:
- Conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a US-designated foreign terrorist organization {FARC]; - Conspiracy to kill US nationals;
- Conspiracy to kill officers and employees of the US ;
- Conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles; and
- Money laundering [Al Kassar and Moreno Godoy only].
The political differences between the United States and Spain are great, largely due to Zapatero's withdrawal of Spanish forces from Iraq and his policy of engagement with Cuba. The people at the embassy are greatly anti-Castro and you can always look around to find some sort of anti-Castro cartoon up on the bulletin boards. Because of big disagreements on this issue -- Condi even made comments about it on her visit here last week -- other more minor disagreements are often misinterpreted between agencies as having to do with Spain's Cuba policy.

This operation is a great example of cooperation between the two governments that extends beyond political differences into the field of precision and professionalism. They had a job to get done and they did it.

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