Idaho man charged in Uzbekistan terrorism plot
BOISE, Idaho — He was a Russian-speaking truck driver who came to Idaho nearly four years ago to join hundreds of other Uzbekistan refugees for whom the state has become a sanctuary from violence in their home country.
But federal officials say in an indictment that Fazliddin Kurbanov also was teaching people to build bombs that would target public transportation.
It’s unclear whether those alleged targets were domestic or abroad — or how far Kurbanov would have gone. Prosecutors said Friday only that they believe he no longer is a threat.
Kurbanov, 30, was arrested Thursday during a raid of his small apartment south of Boise’s downtown.
Prosecutors charged him with felonies in Idaho and Utah after an extensive investigation into his activities late last year and this year. They allege those activities included assisting a militant group in his native Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country with a southern border with Afghanistan.
“Given his arrest, we believe any potential threat he posed has been contained,” U.S Attorney Wendy Olson said. She noted the investigation is ongoing but declined to say whether federal agents are pursuing additional arrests.
Kurbanov said little Friday during his first court appearance, where he pleaded not guilty with help from an interpreter and a federally appointed defense attorney. Kurbanov wore a jail jumpsuit and had dark hair and a beard that was much shorter than the one pictured in his Idaho driver’s license.
Kurbanov lists Uzbek as his first language and Russian as his second in court documents. Federal officials said they will use an interpreter again Tuesday when he appears for his detention hearing.
Until then, Kurbanov will be held in the Ada County Jail. His trial on the three counts filed in Idaho is scheduled for July 2.
His lawyer, Richard Rubin, declined to comment.
Kurbanov is among about 650 Uzbeks living in Idaho. He was admitted to the U.S. legally as a refugee in August 2009, the same month he moved to Boise, said Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, citing immigration records.
Uzbeks began coming to Idaho’s two refugee settlement centers, in Boise and Twin Falls, in 2003, Reeves said. The centers connect refugees with services such as language classes and help finding work.
The flow of Uzbeks to the state escalated around 2005, when clashes between protesters and the government left hundreds dead.
Kurbanov told authorities he had a job driving trucks and listed his only assets as used cars and a small amount of cash in checking and savings accounts.
On Friday, the apartment where he is believed to live had a sign on the door saying “Please respect our privacy.” Nobody responded to a knock. Many immigrants from numerous countries live in the complex, a series of two-level buildings across from a public high school.
Olson said that since Kurbanov’s arrest, she has seen Internet comments blaming Muslims living in Idaho — something she called inappropriate.
About 90 percent of Uzbeks in their home country are Muslim. Representatives of the Islamic Center of Boise, a meeting place for the region’s Muslim community, didn’t immediately return a phone call Friday.
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 give material support to terrorists and possession of an unregistered explosive device.