John Walker Lindh came to be known as the “American Taliban” after he was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 fighting alongside the Taliban. The 38-year old is scheduled for release on Thursday from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
He has spent more than 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to providing support to the Taliban. The plea deal called for a 20-year sentence, but Lindh is getting out a few years early for good behavior.
Lindh is among dozens of prisoners set to be released over the next few years after being captured in Iraq and Afghanistan by US forces and convicted of terrorism-related crimes following the attacks on September 11, 2001.
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His release brought objections from lawmakers who fear he has not forsaken the radical ideology that took him to Afghanistan, and so remains a security risk.
US-born Lindh converted from Catholicism to Islam as a teenager. At his 2002 sentencing, he said he traveled to Yemen to learn Arabic and then to Pakistan to study Islam. He said he volunteered as a Taliban soldier to help fellow Muslims in their struggle or “jihad.” He said he had no intention “to fight against America” and never understood jihad to mean anti-Americanism.
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By most accounts, Lindh has clung firmly to Islam throughout his imprisonment.
A January 2017 report by the US government’s National Counterterrorism Center, published by Foreign Policy, said that as of May 2016, Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts.”
NBC also said Lindh wrote a letter to its Los Angeles station KNBC in 2015 expressing support for the so-called Islamic State terror group, saying the radical Islamist outfit was fulfilling “a religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle.”
The reports about his still embracing jihadism will increase pressure on US authorities to maintain a full-time eye on him even after his release from prison.
sri/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)
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