Russian Taliban fighter first Afghan War enemy combatant charged in US court

Russian Taliban fighter first Afghan War enemy combatant charged in US court
​A 12-count federal indictment unsealed in Virginia on Tuesday alleges that a Russian citizen plotted overseas terrorist attacks against the United States military during the War in Afghanistan.

The US Department of Justice said Tuesday that the suspect, Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin, appeared in court earlier that morning in connection with the unsealing of a lengthy indictment that charges him with a dozen counts related to his alleged involvement in battling American forces during the Afghan War.

According to the indictment, Hamidullin, a former officer and tank commander in the Soviet military, worked alongside the Taliban from 2001 through 2009 and at times “was the main commander” of insurgent groups that targeted US military bases and soldiers. He is charged with conspiring to provide and providing material support to terrorists; conspiring and attempting to destroy an aircraft of the armed forces of the United States; conspiring and attempting to murder a national of the United States; and other offenses.

In a statement from the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs, military officials write that Hamidullin was captured in November 2009 and held by the Pentagon at a unnamed facility in Afghanistan for five years before being turned over to the FBI on Monday this week when he was brought to the US to face charges, making him the first enemy combatant ever to be brought from Afghanistan to the US to face charges in a civilian court.

The US continues to imprison an unknown number of detainees at secret prisons in Afghanistan, according to the Justice Project Pakistan group, but an agreement between the American and Afghan governments means control of those facilities will be turned over to local authorities effective 2015. The Obama administration has long been unsure of what will at that point happen to prisoners held at those so-called black sites, but the decision to try Hamidullin in US court could very well be a sign of what’s to come next from the administration as the end-of-year deadline draws nearer.

Joshua Stueve, spokesman for the US attorney's office in the Eastern District of Virginia, told the Associated Press that Hamidullin "was treated humanely and had access to medical care, cultural considerations and a personal representative" while detained in Afghanistan.

Hamidullin, who is believed to be 55 years old, will next be arraigned at the Eastern District Court for the District of Virginia on Friday morning. From there he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Federal prosecutors allege that Hamidullin, upon seeking permission from Taliban superiors, plotted an attack in November 2009 that targeted Afghan Border Police at Camp Leyza in eastern Khost province

Hamidullin directed the positioning of three groups, the indictment alleges, and advised them on using an arsenal of weapons including AK-47 machine guns, hand grenades, a DShK anti-aircraft machine guns, an 82 millimeter recoilless rifle, a BM 1 portable rocket, rocket-propelled grenades and other weaponry.

The defendant coordinated the attack from a location near the three groups of insurgents, and directed the order and timing of the personnel and weapons used in the attack,” the indictment alleges in part. “In anticipation of US military support for Camp Leyza upon the initiation of the attack, the defendant directed the insurgents to post the DShK anti-aircraft machine gun and the 82 millimeter recoilless rifle to fire upon US military helicopters when the helicopters arrived. As part of the plot, the defendant would and did radio the other insurgent commanders that US helicopters were on their way.”

The day of that attack, the indictment also alleges, Hamidullin personally opened fire upon a group of US and Afghan coalition forces “with the intent to kill them.”

According to a report published by the AP on Tuesday afternoon, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the decision to transfer Hamidullin was directly linked to an impending deadline that will require the US to turn all Afghan prison over to local authorities by the end of the year when America’s combat operation there formally ends.