Former Taliban commander indicted in deaths of US troops

Former Taliban commander indicted in deaths of US troops
© Greg Nash

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced on Thursday that former Taliban commander Haji Najibullah has been indicted in connection to a 2008 attack that downed a helicopter and killed three U.S. soldiers and one Afghan interpreter.

Najibullah, 45, has been charged with 13 crimes including murder, kidnapping, destroying a U.S. military aircraft, hostage-taking and multiple terrorism-related offenses. Six of the crimes he was indicted for carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. He was already in the U.S. for a previous indictment in connection to a kidnapping.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Najibullah commanded more than a thousand Taliban fighters around 2007. Under his command, fighters succeeded in killing many American and NATO troops as well as their Afghan allies.

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In June 2008, Taliban fighters under Najibullah's command downed a U.S. military helicopter in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan, prosecutors allege.

“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. One of these lethal attacks resulted in the deaths of three brave American servicemembers and their Afghan interpreter, and another attack brought down a U.S. helicopter," said U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss.

In November 2008, Najibullah and other Taliban fighters kidnapped an American journalist and two Afghans, holding them hostage in Pakistan for seven months, prosecutors say. Though prosecutors did not name the journalist, sources close to the matter told Reuters that Najibullah had kidnapped former New York Times and Reuters correspondent David Rohde.

Rohde escaped in June 2009 and works for The New Yorker.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said, "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.”