US finds 'Soviet Taliban' fighter guilty of terrorism

Irek Hamidullin, an ex-Soviet army officer, found guilty in US court of terrorism charges over attack in Afghanistan.

    Hamidullin was charged with 15 counts, including providing material support to terrorists [AP]
    Hamidullin was charged with 15 counts, including providing material support to terrorists [AP]

    A former Soviet army officer accused of being a Taliban fighter has been found guilty of terrorism charges by a federal jury in Richmond, Virginia, a court official in the US has said.

    Irek Hamidullin, 55, a tank commander who converted to Islam, faced 15 counts, ranging from supporting terrorists to firearms charges, stemming from his orchestration of a 2009 attack on an Afghan Border Police base in eastern Khost province.

    Hamidullin, who was the first military prisoner from Afghanistan to be tried in a US federal court, was seized following the attack and held for five years at Bagram air base, before being sent to the US.

    The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for more than eight hours before reaching their verdict on Friday.

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    Prosecutors portrayed Hamidullin as the mastermind of the attack whose goal was to lure US troops into a trap and then pound them with heavy weapons, and shoot down US helicopters.

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    "He clearly was setting up for American forces he knew would respond," said Assistant US Attorney James Gillis.

    Hamidullin's defence lawyer had countered that there was insufficient proof that Hamidullin, who did not testify during the trial, had intended to kill Americans.

    He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison when he is sentenced on November 6.

    Hamidullin was indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia last year.

    The charges include ordering his men to set up a machine gun and a recoilless rifle to bring down US military helicopters.

    Battlefield videotape

    The jury heard testimony for a week and viewed evidence that included a battlefield videotape showing Afghan fighters being raked by heavy fire from US helicopter gunships.

    About 30 fighters died in the attack. No US or Afghan military personnel were killed, and no US helicopters were fired on.

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    Authorities say Hamidullin was the sole survivor of the attack and he received serious wounds to his hip and lower parts of his body. Hamidullin was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair.

    Prosecutors contended that Hamidullin planned the attack for months - receiving approval from the Taliban and Haqqani Network, recruiting fighters and acquiring weapons.

    One major dispute at trial was whether Hamidullin fired his AK-47 rifle at US and Afghan troops.

    Three soldiers testified that they either saw him raising the rifle to shoot or saw fire coming out of the rifle's muzzle.

    But a US marksman credited with bringing down Hamidullin said he never saw him fire his weapon.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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