US & Canada

'Soviet Taliban' convicted in US over Afghan attack

Irek Hamidullin surrenders to US troops in Afghanistan in 2009 Image copyright AP
Image caption Irek Hamidullin, pictured surrendering to US troops in Afghanistan in 2009

A former Soviet army officer has been convicted by a US jury of planning and leading a Taliban attack on American forces in Afghanistan in 2009.

The jury found Irek Hamidullin guilty on 15 counts, including supporting terrorists and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The 55-year-old is the first military prisoner from Afghanistan to be tried in a US federal court.

Some of the charges carry a mandatory life sentence.

About 30 insurgents died in the attack, with Hamidullin the only survivor, while no American or Afghan soldiers were killed.

Held at Bagram

Hamidullin, who did not testify during the trial, is expected to be sentenced on 6 November.

Lawyers say it is unusual for someone captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan to be transferred to the United States for trial in a federal court.

Hamidullin's defence lawyers had tried unsuccessfully to have the charges dismissed, saying their client was a prisoner of war and ineligible for trial in civilian court.

Prosecutors argued federal law protected US soldiers no matter where they were.

The jury in Richmond. Virginia, reached its verdict after five days of testimony and eight hours of deliberations.

Hamidullin, a former Soviet army tank commander who stayed in Afghanistan in the 1980s and later joined the Taliban, was seized in 2009 after the attack on Afghan border police and US forces.

He was held for five years at Bagram air base before being sent to the US.

During the trial, prosecutors said he had commanded three groups of insurgents that attacked Camp Leyza, Khost province.

They said he had directed insurgents armed with anti-aircraft machine guns to fire at US military helicopters responding to the initial attack. The defendant had also reportedly used a machine gun to shoot at US troops.