'Soviet Taliban' Irek Hamidullin found guilty in US over Afghan terrorist attack

Irek Hamidullin, 55, faced 15 counts including supporting terrorists and firearms charges

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A former Soviet army officer has been found guilty of terrorism charges by a US jury, including planning and leading a Taliban attack on American forces in Afghanistan in 2009.

Irek Hamidullin, 55, a former Soviet tank commander who had converted to Islam, faced 15 counts on Friday, which included supporting terrorists and firearms charges.

Hamidullin was described by prosecuters as the mastermind behind the 2009 attack on an Afghan Border Police base in the Khost province.

Prosecutors said it was Hamidullin’s aim to lure US troops into a trap to strike them with heavy weapons and shoot down US helicopters.

Assistant US Attorney James Gillis said: “He was clearly setting up for American forces he knew would respond.”

Hamidullin was accused of spending months planning the attack and claimed that he had received approval from the Taliban and Haqqani Network to recruit fighters and acquire weapons.

Hamidullin’s defence attorney said that there was insufficient proof Hamidullin had intended to kill Americans.

Around 30 insurgents died in the attack. No American or Afghan military personnel were killed and no American helicopters were fired on.

Authorities have said that Hamidulloin was the only insurgent survivor of the attack. He received serious injuries to his hip and lower parts of his body during the incident and attended the courtroom in a wheelchair.

One major dispute during the trial was whether Hamidullin had fired an AK-47 rifle at US and Afghan troops.

Three soldiers testified that they had seen him using the rifle, however an American marksman, credited with bringing down Hamidullin, said he had not seen him fire his weapon.

Hamidullin is the first military prisoner from Afghanistan to be tried in a US federal court.

The jury in Richmond, Virginia reached their verdict after 5 days of testimonies and evidence and after eight hours of deliberation.

Hamidullan will be sentenced on 6 November and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. 

Additional reporting by Reuters