April 18, 2013 / 5:26 PM / 7 years ago

U.S. accuses Bissau army head in Colombia drugs, weapons plot

Guinea-Bissau armed forces chief-of-staff General Antonio Indjai (C) leaves a meeting with the president and the regional body of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the capital Bissau November 7, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Penney

DAKAR (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice has accused Guinea-Bissau’s top military official of plotting to traffic cocaine to the United States and sell weapons to Colombian rebels, according to court documents seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The accusation against General Antonio Indjai - widely seen as the coup-prone West African nation’s most powerful man - is the first official signal that criminality may go straight to the top in what has for years been labeled a ‘narco-state’.

Guinea Bissau authorities repeatedly have denied any involvement in drug trafficking.

The indictment filed in New York’s Southern District Court and seen by a Reuters reporter, charges Indjai on four counts: “narco-terrorism conspiracy”, conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, cocaine importation conspiracy and conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles.

Colombia’s FARC rebel group (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) has been labeled a terrorist organization by Washington.

Guinea-Bissau’s military has long been accused of involvement in trafficking Latin American cocaine, using its mangrove-lined offshore islands as cover against the region’s notoriously weak law enforcement.

U.S. undercover agents snared Guinea-Bissau’s former Navy chief Rear Admiral in a high-seas drugs sting on April 2 - the most high-profile score in the U.S. war on drugs in Africa - that sources familiar with the operation say also targeted Indjai, but missed.

Additional reporting by Bernard Vaughn in New York; Editing by David Lewis and Michael Roddy

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