2002: U.S. Reopens Arms Case In Probe for Taliban Role

Federal investigators are reexamining a recent arms smuggling case in Florida to determine whether agents of the Pakistani government tried to buy missiles and nuclear weapons components in the United States last year for use by terrorists or Pakistan's military.

The original criminal case -- a sting operation in which intermediaries allegedly tried to buy the weapons from a diamond thief-turned-informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms -- attracted little public notice when arrests were made in June 2001. It resulted in a single guilty plea and the sealing of court files for another defendant.

One reason, informed sources said, was that prosecutors, in an unusual step, removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns.

The alleged weapons buyers repeatedly said in conversations taped by authorities that they represented the Pakistani government and were arranging the purchases for Pakistani intelligence, the then-Taliban government of Afghanistan or terrorists.

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