New charges for Afghan accused in journalist abduction case

National News

FILE – In this July 10, 2008, file photo, friends and family watch a military honor guard carry the casket of Sgt. 1st Class Joseph A. McKay, during a funeral service at Long Island National cemetery in Farmingdale, N.Y. Haji Najibullah, a former Taliban commander who’s in U.S. custody, is accused of commanding a fatal ambush of McKay, Matthew L. Hilton and Mark Palmateer in Afghanistan in 2008. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — An Afghan man already facing charges in the 2008 gunpoint kidnapping of a New York Times reporter and another journalist was charged on Thursday in the killing of three American soldiers.

A revised indictment against Haji Najibullah accused him of commanding the Taliban fighters behind a fatal ambush of Matthew L. Hilton, Joseph A. McKay and Mark Palmateer in Afghanistan, also in 2008. The document also alleges Najibullah helped down an American military helicopter in a separate attack later in the year.

An attorney for Najibullah, who’s in U.S. custody, declined Thursday to comment on the new charges.

Najibullah, 45, was brought to the United States last year to face original charges including hostage taking, conspiracy and kidnapping. Prosecutors alleged he orchestrated the abduction of David Rohde, who then worked for the Times, and Afghan journalist Tahir Ludin as they were heading to interview a Taliban leader.

Both victims made a dramatic escape from a Taliban-controlled compound in Pakistan’s tribal areas more than seven months after their Nov. 10, 2008, kidnapping. Their driver, Asadullah Mangal, was a third kidnapping victim and escaped a few weeks after Ludin and Rohde.

An arraignment for Najibullah is set for Oct. 15 in federal court in Manhattan. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

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