An Afghan evacuee has been charged with the rape of a woman in Missoula, Montana, the state's governor said Thursday – and he called for the Biden administration to halt all refugee resettlements until assurances are made about the vetting process.
Gov. Greg Gianforte's office said in a statement that an Afghan male placed in Montana by the U.S. State Department was charged with sexual assault.
The Missoula Police Department told Fox that Zabihullah Muhmand was arrested after they received a 911 call from the victim and a local motel about concerning behavior. Muhmand, 19, is now being held at the Missoula County Jail on charges of sexual intercourse without consent and the case is being investigated by detectives – but did not confirm his evacuee status. The local court told Fox News that there is a federal hold on Muhmand.
The victim says she met Muhmand, who asked her to go back to her hotel room, but she said she did not want anything to happen, court documents reviewed by Fox News show. The victim was later seen in the lobby visibly upset and called 911, according to those documents. Authorities found the victim's bra and socks in Muhmand's room. The man said the incident was consensual.
The incident was first reported by local outlet KGVO.
In a statement, Gianforte said that while he welcomes "fully-vetted Afghan allies to Montana, this situation and others across the country raise serious concerns about whether the Biden administration is meeting its obligations to fully vet Afghans prior to resettlement."
"I'm calling on President Biden to immediately halt resettlements to Montana until federal agencies provide me with adequate assurance that Afghans coming to Montana are fully-vetted in accordance with federal law," he said.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said the suspect was admitted to the United States and placed in Montana under humanitarian parole, and backed stopping resettlements.
"The fallout and consequences from President Biden's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan continue," he said in a statement. "While I support assisting our fully-vetted Afghan allies who served alongside our armed forces, President Biden has failed to provide answers as to who has come into the country or if they have been fully vetted according to what’s required by law. I've spoken to Gov. Gianforte about this situation, and I stand with him in calling on President Biden to stop all Afghan resettlements to Montana until we get answers."
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., who has expressed concerns about the vetting of nationals for weeks, and has introduced legislation on the matter, said the national was paroled into the country without proper screening.
"These unvetted Afghans do not share our culture and our values, and as this horrific incident shows they represent a serious risk to our communities," said Rosendale. "We cannot allow this administration to continue to jeopardize the safety of our communities and the security of our nation in the name of empathy."
He also urged a halt to the resettlement of nationals, and called on Biden to "begin to remove Afghan evacuees that have been resettled from the United States."
The Biden administration has been bringing tens of thousands of Afghan nationals into the country in the wake of the U.S. drawdown. It has said the process is multilayered and officials say screening and security are conducted by intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism officials from multiple agencies.
The Department of Homeland Security, which is overseeing Operation Allies Welcome, told Fox News on Thursday that Afghan parolees are "expected to abide by the laws of the United States, both while in military installations and as resettled members of local communities."
"Criminal behavior is not tolerated and those who violate the law are subject to prosecution and may be put into removal proceedings," the spokesperson said. "|While at military installations, Afghan parolees are briefed about the conditions of their parole and that violating the law violates their parole."
The spokesperson emphasized that individuals are subjected to "rigorous, multi-layered screening and vetting processes that involve biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, FBI, National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and additional Intelligence Community partners."
But Republicans have raised concerns about the vetting process, and pointed to a number of cases in which Afghans have been accused of serious crimes – although administration officials have noted that they are still relatively few considering the numbers that have come in.
A female soldier at Fort Bliss in New Mexico reported being assaulted on Sept. 19 by a group of male evacuees – an incident being investigated by the FBI. That was after Bahrullah Noori, a 20-year-old Afghan evacuee, was charged with attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor using force against that person, along with three other counts of engaging in a sex act with a minor, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
Another evacuee at Fort McCoy, 32-year-old Mohammad Haroon Imaad, was charged with assaulting his wife by choking and suffocating her on Sept. 17.