RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - A former American soldier testifying in the trial of Irek Hamidullin on Monday said the accused Russian Taliban leader was compliant when captured, and said he was doing “God’s work.”
Hamidullin, a former Soviet tank commander who converted to Islam and was allegedly fighting for the Taliban, is the first Afghan War military combatant to be tried in U.S. federal court.
Believed to be in his 50s, Hamidullin was charged last year with 15 criminal counts ranging from supporting terrorists to firearms offenses stemming from an assault on an Afgan Border Police base in November of 2009
“He raised his hands and said [in English], ‘Don’t kill me, I’m a Russian citizen’” said Todd Marcum, who shot and wounded Hamidullin as he and other soldiers pursued insurgents who had attacked Camp Leyza in Khost Province. “He said he was just doing ‘God’s work.’”
No Americans or Afghan troops were killed in the attack, and Hamidullin was the sole survivor among about 30 insurgents.
Marcum, now a 31-year-old fishing guide in Huntington, West Virginia, said Hamidullin threw down his weapon as he surrendered.
A bloody photo flashed on a courtroom screen showed a gaping wound where Marcum’s shot had entered Hamidullin’s hip, exiting through his buttocks.
Hamidullin was arrested and was held by the Pentagon in unnamed Afghan facility for five years before being brought to the United States to face charges.
After the attack failed, Hamidullin opened fire on Afghan and U.S. forces with a machine gun, prosecutors say. He faces life in prison if convicted on all counts.
The court was repeatedly shown videos made from U.S. helicopters and fixed-wing helicopters depicting rockets, bombs and heavy machine guns decimating the group of insurgents that Hamidullin is alleged to have led.
Later, Marcum could only shake his head as he thought about what might have been going through Hamidullin’s mind as he watched his former brothers in arms being killed.
Besides Marcum, prosecutors called six other witnesses on Monday, including the American helicopter pilots and gunners who attacked the group of insurgents, as well an American commander who visited Hamidullin in the hospital shortly after he was taken prisoner.
The trial, which began last Thursday, is expected to last a week.
Reporting by Gary Robertson in Richmond, Va.; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Ken Wills