RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A former Russian army tank commander was sentenced in Richmond Federal Court on Thursday to life in prison plus 30 years for role in an attack against US and Afghan forces in 2009.
Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin, 55, was found guilty in August of conspiring to shoot down American helicopters and attempting to kill U.S. and Afghan soldiers. He also conspired to use a weapon of mass destruction, and was convicted of several other charges relating to an attack he led on U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan on Nov. 28, 2009.
"Few crimes could be more serious than this one," said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "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."
Hamidullin is the first man captured in Afghanistan to be prosecuted in the United States.
Prosecutors say Hamidullin worked with Taliban members and the Haqqani Network terrorist organization in the attack. The attack failed and he was wounded before the lives of any American or Afghani soldiers were lost.
"The sentence imposed today on the defendant Hamidullin for masterminding an attack on U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan serves as a reminder of the global reach and determination of the FBI to exact justice through the American legal system," said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office. "The FBI, together with our partners in the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Department of Defense, will continue to relentlessly pursue any person who commits acts of terrorism or supports terrorist organizations targeting American troops, citizens, or interests."
According to evidence presented at trial, Hamidullin led an assault on Camp Leyza, then ordered his men to fire anti-aircraft weapons on two responding U.S. Army helicopters. Both weapons malfunctioned and the helicopters were not fired upon. When US aircraft later spotted the insurgents attempting to set an ambush for approaching U.S. and Afghan forces using machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers, the U.S. helicopters shot and killed around 20 of Hamidullin's fighters.
The next morning, Hamidullin was found hiding on the battlefield, prosecutors said. Hamidullin opened fire on the U.S. forces, but was wounded and captured after a brief firefight.
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