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U.S. jails Russian ‘Taliban’ fighter for life

A 55-year-old former Russian tank commander, dubbed the Russian Taliban, was sentenced to life for fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Published: Updated:

A 55-year-old former Russian tank commander, dubbed the Russian Taliban, was sentenced to life plus 30 years in a U.S. prison for fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Irek Hamidullin was convicted by a U.S. jury in August on 15 counts relating to a 2009 insurgent attack that he masterminded on an Afghan border police outpost near the Pakistani border.

He was found guilty of conspiring to shoot down U.S. helicopters and kill U.S. and Afghan soldiers, and of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction among other charges.

He was captured by U.S. troops on the battlefield, before being flown to the United States to face trial. U.S. evidence showed that he was in contact with high-level personnel in the Taliban and the Haqqani network.

Hamidullin led a group of fighters in an attack on the Camp Leyza outpost in the northeastern Afghan province of Khost on November 28, 2009 after months of planning, prosecutors said.

The attack was approved by the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, and saw him amass homemade bombs, heavy machine guns and a shoulder-fired rocket intended to shoot down U.S. helicopters.

But the anti-aircraft weapons malfunctioned during the fighting and he ordered his fighters to pack up and return to Pakistan, during which around 20 were killed by U.S. fire, prosecutors said.

Hamidullin was captured the next morning after opening fire on U.S. forces with a Kalashnikov, they added.

The U.S. justice system routinely prosecutes people deemed to have posed a threat to or harmed Americans overseas.

“This case once again demonstrates our resolve to find and bring to justice, using all available tools, those who target U.S. citizens and interests around the world,” said assistant U.S. attorney general John Carlin.