Neighbors talk about Uzbek refugee's arrest, terror allegations

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 17, 2013 

— The Uzbek national and Boise resident accused of training people to carry out terrorist attacks is a refugee who resettled in Boise in 2009.

Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, confirmed Friday that Fazliddin Kurbanov was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in August 2009 and resettled in Boise. Reeves would not say whether Kurbanov came to the U.S. with family, nor which of the three local resettlement agencies handled his case.

Kurbanov, a 30-year-old truck driver, was arrested at an apartment complex off of Cassia Street and Curtis Road on Thursday morning after two grand juries issued federal indictments as part of an investigation into his activities in Idaho and Utah. He pleaded not guilty Friday morning to his Idaho charges; a detention hearing Tuesday will determine if he will be set free before his July trial.

About 665 Uzbeks have come to Idaho through the refugee program since 2003, settling in Boise and Twin Falls.

Reeves said Thursday's arrest was the first time a resettled refugee in Idaho has been accused of suspected terrorist activities. More than 13,000 refugees have made new homes in Boise since 1975, he said.

"There may be a concern about what this arrest means," Reeves said. "But I want to remind people that refugees are among the most highly scrutinized people who come into the U.S. They go through several rounds of interviews, including interviews with Homeland Security. Refugees wait a very long time in terms of security. There has been great attention paid.

"These charges are simply charges at this point. They should not reflect on Boise's larger Uzbek community."

UNEXPECTED EVENTS

A wind chime with the word "welcome" hung outside the Kurbanov family's apartment Friday. But a sign on the door read: "We are not talking to visitors at this time. Please respect our privacy. Thank you."

Just three doors down, an Agency for New Americans truck had pulled in. The majority of residents are refugees. Workers were unloading furniture for a new family that was moving in that afternoon.

"This will be strange for them, moving in today after all of this," said a worker who wouldn't give his name.

Dirk Bratley has lived in the complex for about a year and a half, downstairs from the Kurbanov family. He said that when he arrived home from work on Thursday, he found his usual parking lot filled with law enforcement. He could still get into his apartment and cooked dinner as usual.

"Then I sat outside, eating a banana, watching the FBI going in and out and carrying boxes out of the apartment," said Bratley.

He later went inside and looked up Kurbanov's indictment online.

He didn't know the family well, he said, other than nodding "hello" when passing. He said he'd seen an older couple at the apartment, as well as a younger woman and two young children. He rarely saw Kurbanov, he said.

"I hadn't even realized that he lived there," Bratley said.

Ibrohim El-Khoshimiy is an Uzbek refugee who arrived in the U.S. three years ago and now works for a company that rents goats. He lived for a time in the same apartment complex as Kurbanov, knew him and still talks to Kurbanov's parents.

"He was a good guy with a good father and a good mother," El-Khoshimiy said.

El-Khoshimiy said he talked to Fazliddin's dad Zaynidin after the arrest. Zaynidin was surprised, according to El-Khoshimiy, because he always asked his son if everything was going OK. Fazliddin always said that it was.

NEXT STEPS

Kurbanov will remain in custody until at least Tuesday's detention hearing. His jury trial is currently set for July 2 before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge.

He's being represented by a federal public defender and will require the services of a translator for his court appearances. His primary language is Uzbek; he also speaks Russian, according to court documents.

Kurbanov's Idaho charges will be addressed first. Then, he'll go to Utah to stand trial for a federal charge of distributing information about explosives, bombs and weapons of mass destruction.

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