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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Russian Taliban Fighter Gets Life for 2009 Attack

(CN) - A former Russian army commander got life in prison this week for charges stemming from a 2009 attack he led against troops in Afghanistan, the government said.

Irek Hamidullin, 55, attacked U.S. and Afghan forces near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on Nov. 28, 2009, with Taliban approval, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

His plan was to shoot down U.S. helicopters responding to his initial attack on an Afghan camp, the government says.

"Hamidullin positioned himself on a nearby hill, away from his fighters, where he had a clear view of the battlefield and could radio orders to his fighters. As the helicopters approached, he ordered his fighters to fire the anti-aircraft weapons he had strategically placed in the area. Both weapons malfunctioned and the helicopters were not fired upon," a Justice Department press release states.

The Russian and his fighters retreated back into Pakistan after the heavy weapons failed, the press release states, before American forces spotted the insurgents and "eliminated" about 20 of them.

During a damage assessment the next morning, troops found Hamidullin hiding on the battlefield. He opened fire but was wounded and captured, the government says.

Hamidullin was convicted in August of 15 charges including giving material support to terrorists, attempted murder of U.S. military personnel, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and possession of a firearm in connection with a crime of violence.

He was sentenced Thursday to life plus 30 years in prison.

Eastern Virginia U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said in a statement that "few crimes could be more serious than this one."

"In a well-planned, deliberate, and premeditated attack, Hamidullin led an assault upon an Afghan outpost by a group of insurgents, many of whom he recruited and trained, with the intent to kill Afghan Border Police and responding American forces," Boente said. "Hamidullin is a charismatic proselytizer of the radical views that animate Islamist violence such as that perpetrated by the Taliban and the Haqqani Network upon Americans and Afghans - civilian and military targets alike - especially in 2009 when this attack took place."

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