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Alleged 'Merchant of Death' arms dealer arrives in US

Alleged 'Merchant of Death' arms dealer arrives in US
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Former Soviet fighter pilot and alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout arrived in New York on Wednesday after being extradited from Thailand.

The Americans accuse Bout, who they call ‘The Merchant of Death’, of selling surface-to-air missiles to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, as well as to rebel groups across South America and Africa.

The 43-year-old, who arrived aboard a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) charter plane, was due to appear in a US federal court later on Wednesday.

Bout’s extradition from Thailand has provoked the ire of Moscow.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday dismissed the allegations as politically motivated and “a blatant injustice.”

Bout was arrested in March 2008 in Bangkok after a sting by undercover US agents posing as buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, a leftist guerrilla group.

Washington, which has described Bout as “one of the world’s most prolific arms traffickers”, lobbied hard for his extradition.

It put Thailand in a difficult diplomatic spot between the United States and Russia.

Bout, who speaks six languages and has used at least seven separate identities, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted in the United States.

He faces charges including conspiracy to kill US nationals and providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organisation.

Washington alleges that the arms he has sold or brokered have fuelled conflicts and supported regimes in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.