New York grand jury finds Taliban commander guilty of killing US troops

The seal of the United States Department of Justice is seen on the building exterior of the United States Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

On Thursday, a federal grand jury in New York indicted a former Taliban commander on charges related to the assassination of American soldiers in Afghanistan and the downing of a U.S. military helicopter.

Haji Najibullah, 45, faces 13 terrorism-related charges, including murder, attempted murder, destruction of U.S. military aircraft, hostage-taking, and kidnapping, according to the superseding indictment.

Najibullah was initially indicted in October of last year for kidnapping an American journalist in November 2008.

According to the Justice Department, Najibullah was a Taliban commander from 2007 to 2011 and oversaw over a thousand fighters who used automatic weapons, improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades, and other anti-tank weapons attack and kill American and NATO troops as well as Afghan allies. Ten of his thirteen accusations carry a possible penalty of life in prison.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York said, "As alleged, during one of the most dangerous periods of the conflict in Afghanistan, Haji Najibullah led a vicious band of Taliban insurgents who terrorized part of Afghanistan and attacked U.S. troops," "Neither time nor distance can weaken our resolve to hold terrorists accountable for their crimes and to see justice done for their victims."

Najibullah is accused of directing Taliban insurgents that ambushed a U.S. military convoy in Wardak Province on June 26, 2008, killing Sgt. First Class Matthew L. Hilton and Joseph McKay, Sgt. Mark Palmateer, and their Afghan interpreter.

According to court documents, Taliban gunmen under Najibullah's authority shot down a U.S. military helicopter on Oct. 27, 2008. According to the Justice Department, despite the Taliban's claims that the attack killed everyone on board, no one died.

According to the indictment, on Nov. 19, 2008, Najibullah was accused of kidnapping a New York journalist and two Afghan nationals in Pakistan.

Even though Najibullah had previously been charged in connection with the kidnapping, New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea stated that investigators were continuing to look into other crimes that could be linked to the former Taliban leader.

"These newest charges for the terrorist murders of U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan will hopefully bring some small measure of closure to the families of those soldiers who gave their lives for our country," he said in a statement.

In October of last year, Najibullah was apprehended in Ukraine and deported to the United States.

Publish : 2021-10-08 11:37:00

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