Questions surround man with Utah, Idaho connections accused of conspiring with terrorists
SALT LAKE CITY — The intentions of an Uzbekistan national accused of conspiring with an Islamic extremist group and how he came to be in Utah and Idaho remained unclear as he made his first court appearance Friday.
Fazliddin Kurbanov, 30, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Boise to three terrorism-related charges, including conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
Federal authorities say Kurbanov supplied resources to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which the U.S. government identifies as a foreign terrorist group that aims to overthrow the Uzbek regime and establish an Islamic state. Money, software and training were among those resources, according to the indictment.
Kurbarov also had the parts to make a bomb, including a hollow hand grenade, hobby fuse, aluminum powder, potassium nitrate and sulfur, the indictment says.
"For the U.S. attorney to mention IMU, that's sending off all kinds of bells and whistles inside the Beltway in terms of intelligence agencies to figure out who this guy is, what he knew and why him and why in Utah and Idaho," said homeland security expert Tom Panuzio.
Federal prosecutors did not reveal any new information in court Friday.
A public defender was appointed to represent Kurbanov, who worked as a truck driver until his arrest Thursday. He was being held in the Ada County Jail. A detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Boise.
The Idaho U.S. Attorney's Office is seeking to keep him behind bars pending trial, arguing he is a danger to the community and a flight risk. Trial is scheduled for July 2.
A one-count indictment filed in Salt Lake City alleges that for 10 days in January, Kurbanov taught and demonstrated how to make explosive devices and distributed information relating to the manufacture and use of a weapon of mass destruction.
In Utah, he allegedly showed Internet videos, led shopping trips, provided written recipes and gave instructions on where to obtain components to build and use improvised explosive devices, according to the indictment.
The FBI would not comment on where Kurbanov lived or stayed in Utah or how much time he spent in the state.
Idaho U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said the case isn't connected to the bombings in Boston last month.
But Panuzio said what Kurbanov was allegedly doing had the potential to be much worse. While Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appear to be "self-radicalized," authorities said they have tied Kurbanov to a well-established, well-funded terrorist group, he said.
"In many ways it is more troublesome, at least initially, than the Boston bombings. Obviously a bomb didn't go off," he said. "But if these accusations are true, to have an individual that is supporting and providing money and resources to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. That is extremely troubling."
This appears to be a much more coordinated effort with a group capable of building high-grade explosives, Panuzio said.
Although the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan started in the 1990s with the stated goal of overthrowing the Uzbek regime and establishing an Islamic government, it has broadened its 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-Qaida 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 Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
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