US jury finds ‘Russian Taliban fighter’ guilty on terrorism-related charges

Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin. © wochit News
A US federal jury has found a former Soviet army officer, accused of masterminding and leading a Taliban attack on American forces in Afghanistan in 2009, guilty of all 15 charges including supporting terrorism.

The defendant, 55-year-old Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin, was the first military prisoner from Afghanistan to appear in a US federal court. After deliberating for more than eight hours on Friday, the jury in Richmond, Virginia, delivered a guilty verdict on all counts.

Hamidullin was facing 15 charges ranging from supporting terrorists to firearms offenses stemming from the assault in eastern Afghanistan's Khost province in 2009. The prosecution insisted that Hamidullin was planning to lure into a trap and kill US troops.

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

The defence however argued that the defendant had never fired his AK-47 rifle during the attack in which about 30 militants died and no Afghan or US troops were killed.

“I got injured before I was able to shoot,” Hamidullin claimed, while an American marksman credited with bringing down Hamidullin confirmed he never saw him fire his weapon. However in secret, interviews recorded him talking about planning the attack.

The USSR-born Hamidullin was a former Soviet army officer and tank commander in the early 1980s before he became a follower of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar around 2001.

He worked alongside the Taliban through November 2009, when he was arrested and held in an unnamed Afghan facility for five years. Hamidullin was brought to the US in 2014 to face charges, making him the first enemy combatant ever to be brought from Afghanistan to face charges in a civilian court.