The U.S. Justice Department says an Afghan man already facing charges in the United States in a 2008 kidnapping case has now been charged with additional crimes, including an attack that killed three U.S. soldiers later that same year.
Haji Najibullah, who was brought to the United States last year to face the original charges related to the kidnapping, was indicted on October 7 for attacks on U.S. service members in Afghanistan.
The revised indictment says the new charges stem from Najibullah’s role as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The indictment charges Najibullah with attacks on U.S. troops conducted by him and the Taliban fighters under his command, the statement said, adding that a federal grand jury in New York unsealed the indictment on October 7.
“Najibullah, who allegedly served as a Taliban commander in 2007 and 2008, is charged with numerous terrorism offenses relating to attacks against the U.S. military in Afghanistan, including an attack that killed three U.S. service members, and others relating to taking an American journalist hostage in Afghanistan,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “He will now be held accountable in an American courtroom.”
The attack that killed the three U.S. Army soldiers and their Afghan interpreter in June 2008 hit their convoy in the vicinity of Sayed Abad in Wardak Province with improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic weapons fire.
The indictment also alleges that Najibullah or troops under his command targeted a U.S. helicopter in October 2008, bringing down the aircraft, also near Sayed Abad.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for downing the helicopter, falsely saying that everyone on board was killed. The Justice Department said no troops died as a result of the attack.
The statement said Najibullah, 45, also known as Najibullah Naim, Abu Tayeb, Atiqullah, and Nesar Ahmad Mohammad, "was previously charged with crimes related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals."
The kidnapping victims were not identified in the Justice Department’s statement, but the description of events matched the kidnapping of New York Times journalist David Rohde, Afghan journalist Tahir Ludin, and their driver.
Najibullah and his co-conspirators held the hostages captive in Pakistan for seven months, the statement said. During their captivity, they were forced to make calls and videos seeking help, including one in which the journalist was forced to beg for his life while a guard pointed a machine gun at his face.
Rohde and Ludin escaped in November 2008, and their driver, Asadullah Mangal, got away a few weeks later.
Najibullah was arrested in October 2020 and was extradited from Ukraine to the United States, where he remains in federal custody, the statement said.
An attorney for Najibullah declined to comment on the new charges, AP reported.
Najibullah is scheduled to be arraigned on October 15 in federal court in New York City. If convicted, he faces life in prison.