2021-10-16 00:28:27 Ex-Taliban commander pleads not guilty to killing US troops | Courts News

Ex-Taliban commander pleads not guilty to killing US troops | Courts News

Haji Najibullah, charged in connection with an attack on US troops in Afghanistan in 2008, says the accusations are ‘incorrect.’

The lawyer for an ex-Taliban commander accused of killing American troops in Afghanistan in 2008 has said it is “preposterous” to charge his client in deaths that occurred during a war started by the US.

Haji Najibullah, 45, pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in Manhattan on Friday, telling the judge that the “accusations are incorrect.”

US prosecutors announced last week that they were charging Najibullah in connection with a June 2008 attack on a US military convoy by Taliban fighters under his command using automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, and other explosives.

The attack killed three US military personnel as well as their Afghan interpreter.

“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 parts of Afghanistan and attacked US troops,” Audrey Strauss, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement on October 7.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J Lesko added, “He will now be held accountable in an American courtroom.”

Mark Gombiner, Najibullah’s lawyer, stated on Friday that evidence will show that the allegations are false.

He described the deaths of American soldiers as a “immense tragedy,” but he believes it is “preposterous” that his client should be held responsible for murder in a US courtroom for the deaths of “American soldiers fighting in a war initiated by the United States.”

According to Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from New York, US prosecutors rejected that argument, stating that there are legal precedents for bringing such charges.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for November 18, and it is expected to “take some time to work its way through the courts,” according to Saloomey.

Najibullah, 45, was already in US custody after being charged with kidnapping an American journalist and two Afghan civilians in 2008. He was arrested and extradited from Ukraine to the United States in October of last year, and if convicted, he faces life in prison.

The appeal came nearly two months after the United States completed its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of conflict. The United States led an erratic evacuation effort from Kabul, the capital that had fallen under Taliban control.

Last weekend, the United States held its first in-person meetings with top Taliban leaders. Senior Taliban officials and US representatives met in Doha, Qatar, to discuss “opening a new page” in their countries’ relationship, according to a top Afghan diplomat.

Officials from the Biden administration later stated that the discussions were “candid and professional.”

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Ex-Taliban commander pleads not guilty to killing US troops | Courts News