A Russian man and former Soviet tank commander accused of joining the Taliban and leading an attack on American forces in Afghanistan in 2009 pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges Friday in civilian court in Virginia.
The man, Irek Hamidullin, was ordered held until April, when he is scheduled for trial. He is the first U.S. detainee in Afghanistan to be flown to the United States for trial, a point of contention between the Obama administration and some Republicans.
Hamidullin is a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. indictment unsealed this week. He became a follower of Mullah Mohammed Omar in 2001 and, later, a commander in the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani militant network, the indictment said.
The U.S. accuses Hamidullin of leading three groups of insurgents in an attack on an Afghan police station in November 2009, the idea being to use anti-aircraft weapons to hit American helicopters when they responded. Hamidullin himself fired a machine gun at U.S. and Afghan forces, according to the indictment. He is charged with 12 criminal counts, including supporting terrorists and trying to kill an American officer.
A “large number” of insurgents were killed in the U.S.-Afghan response, the indictment said. The United States is not seeking the death penalty.