US & Canada

'Russian Taliban' appears in US court on terror charges

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A former Russian army officer who is alleged to have fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan has appeared in court in the United States on terrorism charges.

Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin - believed to be about 55 - faces 12 charges including the attempted murder of a US citizen.

He was seized in 2009 after an attack on Afghan border police and US forces. He was held for five years at Bagram air base before being sent to the US.

He is the first military detainee to be brought to the US from Afghanistan.

Mr Hamidullin, shackled and heavily guarded by federal agents, appeared in a federal court in Richmond, Virginia, on Tuesday.

According to a 19-page indictment, Mr Hamidullin served as an officer in the Soviet army during the war in Afghanistan in the 1970s-80s.

He then stayed in Afghanistan and later joined the Taliban.

The indictment says he commanded three groups of insurgents that attacked the Afghan police and US forces at Camp Leyza, Khost province, in 2009.

He is believed to have directed insurgents armed with anti-aircraft machine guns to fire at US military helicopters responding to the initial attack. The defendant also reportedly used a machine gun to shoot at US troops.

Mr Hamidullin said little during his initial appearance. The next court session is scheduled for Friday.

He was one of 13 foreigners held by the US authorities in Afghanistan.

Washington plans to transfer all the remaining detainees by the end of December, when the US-led Nato combat mission ends.