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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 00:47 GMT
US shocked by 'American Taleban'
John Walker Lindh, American who joined the Taleban
John Walker's parents last heard from him in May
Family and friends of a 20-year-old American expressed shock that the young man they knew was fighting with the Taleban.

John Philip Walker Lindh was discovered by Northern Alliance forces hiding in a flooded basement of a prison fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif. He was one of the few foreign fighters who survived the bloody revolt

I also want to give him maybe a little kick in the butt for not telling me what he was up to and for not getting my permission

Frank Lindh, father

The 20-year-old student of Islam, who gave his name as Abdul Hamid, reportedly joined the Taleban because he wanted to help create a "pure Islamic state." He is now being treated by US forces for shrapnel wounds.

He is reportedly one of three Americans fighting with the Taleban. The other two are said to be in the custody of Northern Alliance forces.

US undecided

His parents, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker, both identified him from news video and photographs. They were relieved and mildly upset with their son, who they had not heard from since May.

In an interview on CNN, his father, Frank Lindh, said: "We want to give him a big hug. I also want to give him maybe a little kick in the butt for not telling me what he was up to and for not getting my permission. I would have not given him permission to go to Afghanistan."

Until they lost touch with him, his father said that he was not worried.

"I had nothing to see there other than a kid, a boy really, who converted to a religion that I respect and seemed very healthy and good for him," Mr Lindh said.

He is now concerned that his son might face prosecution upon returning to the US and has hired a lawyer to represent him.

It doesn't compute. The John we know is a sweet, thoughtful person

Bill Jones, neighbour

The US government is still reviewing the case and has not decided what to do with John Walker Lindh, according to Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld.

He would not comment on whether he thought the 20-year-old was a traitor.

"We found a person who says he's an American with an AK-47 in a prison with a bunch of al-Qaeda and Taleban prisoners," he said. "You can be certain he will have all the rights he is due."

But at a senate hearing on President Bush's order to try suspected terrorists in front of military tribunals, a US official said that if tried, John Walker would not face trial by military commission.

The order only applies to non-US citizens, the official told senators.

Confusion and anger

Neighbours in California who knew him were baffled.

"It doesn't compute. The John we know is a sweet, thoughtful person," said neighbour Bill Jones.
Taleban fighter
Friends cannot understand why Walker joined the Taleban

But others in his hometown of Fairfax California were angry with the young man.

"If he was pointing a gun at any of my soldier friends, put him on trial," said Russell Decker. "If not, put him in a mental ward and bring him home."

And angry messages were left on internet message boards after it was reported that the young man expressed qualified support for the 11 September attacks.

One internet user expressed anger that Northern Alliance fighters did not shoot the young man who described himself as a jihadi to a reporter.

The user said "He was part of the gang that killed MIKE SPANN," referring to the American CIA contractor who died in the prison uprising.

Young convert

The 20-year-old was born in the suburbs of Washington and grew up near San Francisco.

Raised as a Catholic, he converted to Islam at the age of 16 after reading the biography of Malcolm X. His parents paid for him to study Arabic in Yemen.

From there he went to Pakistan where he studied at a madrassa, or Islamic school.

His parents last heard from him in May, when he said that he was heading north to a cooler region for the summer.

See also:

03 Dec 01 | South Asia
America's home-grown Taleban fighter
01 Dec 01 | South Asia
Fort revolt: What really happened?
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Meeting Taleban's foreign fighters
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