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Idaho man charged in Uzbekistan terrorism plot appears in court

Published May 17, 2013 10:55 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

BOISE, Idaho • An Uzbekistan national living in Boise said little during his first court appearance Friday on federal charges from Idaho that he gave support, cash and other resources to help a recognized terrorist group in his home country plan a terrorist attack there.

Fazliddin Kurbanov, 30, was arrested Thursday during a raid of his small apartment. Prosecutors have offered few details of their investigation or Kurbanov's role in helping a militant group back home. He was charged in Idaho and Utah after an extensive investigation into his activities late last year and this year.

Kurbanov pleaded not guilty during the hearing that lasted about 20 minutes. Kurbanov — with a short, cropped beard, dark hair and wearing a jail jumpsuit — spoke only a few words to the judge, their communication complicated by language differences.

Federal officials said they will enlist the help of an interpreter when Kurbanov, who lists Uzbek as his first language and Russian as his second in court documents, appears Tuesday for his detention hearing.

Until then, he will be held in the Ada County Jail. Kurbanov said he couldn't pay for an attorney, so federal public defender Richard Rubin was appointed to handle the case.

"Given his arrest, we believe any potential threat he posed has been contained," said U.S Attorney Wendy Olson, who declined to comment on whether federal agents are pursuing additional arrests. Their investigation is ongoing, she said.

Kurbanov has been living in the United States legally, but his immigration status is unclear. He said he had a job driving trucks in Boise and listed his only assets as a couple of used cars and a small amount of cash in checking and savings accounts.

His trial on the three counts filed in Idaho is scheduled for July 2.

Olson said she has seen Internet comments blaming Idaho's Muslim community, something she called inappropriate. She said her office enjoys "outstanding partnerships" with its members.

"These charges shouldn't be seen as a reflection on that community," Olson said.

The Idaho indictment charges Kurbanov with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and possession of an unregistered explosive device.

It alleges that between August and May, Kurbanov knowingly conspired with others to provide support and resources, including computer software and money, to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which the U.S. has identified as a terrorist organization. The group's purpose is to overthrow the government of Uzbekistan, said David B. Barlow, U.S. attorney in Utah. The alleged co-conspirators were not named.

The indictment also alleges Kurbanov provided material support to terrorists, knowing that the help was to be used in preparation for a plot involving the use of a weapon of mass destruction. On Nov. 15, Kurbanov possessed an explosive device, consisting of a series of parts intended to be converted into a bomb, according to the indictment. Those parts included a hollow hand grenade, a hobby fuse, aluminum powder, potassium nitrate and sulfur.

A separate federal grand jury in Utah charged Kurbanov with distributing information about explosives, bombs and weapons of mass destruction. For 10 days in January, Kurbanov taught and demonstrated how to make an "explosive, destructive device, and weapon of mass destruction," the document states.

The Utah indictment, which will be handled separately after the Idaho prosecution is resolved, alleges that Kurbanov provided written recipes for how to make improvised explosive devices and went on instructional shopping trips in Utah showing what items are necessary to buy to make the devices, Barlow said. Kurbanov also showed Internet videos on the topic, Barlow said.

The prosecutor declined to say whom Kurbanov took on the shopping trips in Utah but said that information will come out as the case proceeds.

The indictment from Utah also alleges that Kurbanov intended that the videos, recipes, instructions and shopping trips be used to make an explosive device for the "bombings of a place of public use, public transportation system, and infrastructure facility."

The arrest shows that "there is no priority that is more important than the protection of the public and the prevention and disruption of alleged terrorist activities — wherever they might occur," Barlow said.

Wendy Olson, the U.S. attorney in Idaho, said Kurbanov is the only person charged, and any potential threat was contained by his arrest.

"He was closely monitored during the course of the investigation," she said. "The investigation has been underway for some time."

Olson declined to share any specifics of Kurbanov's alleged activities, including whether any potential terrorist threat or targets were domestic or abroad.

It was unclear when he moved to Idaho. An Idaho telephone number registered to Kurbanov has been disconnected.

Although the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan started in the 1990s with the stated aim of overthrowing the Uzbek regime and establishing an Islamic government, its goals have expanded to create a broader Islamic influence in Central Asia.

The movement's fighters have a presence in Afghanistan's northern provinces and in Pakistan's Waziristan province. U.S. and Afghan officials say al-Qaeda has been building ties with the IMU.

Last year, an Uzbek named Ulugbek Kodirov was sentenced to a minimum 15 years in prison in Alabama for plotting to shoot President Barack Obama while on the campaign trial. Kodirov pleaded guilty, saying he was acting at the behest of the IMU.

According to Idaho's court system, Kurbanov has no criminal convictions but was ticketed for speeding violations twice in 2012 — once in October, when he paid a $90 fine, and another instance in May when he paid $85.

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Associated Press writers Todd Dvorak in Boise, Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.