A California man dubbed the “American Taliban” following his capture on a battlefield in Afghanistan in 2001 was released from prison Thursday after serving 17 years for providing support to the Afghan extremist group, according to media reports.
John Walker Lindh, 38, was released from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, three years early for good behavior, according to CNN and Fox News.
His status in the prison’s inmate registry changed from scheduled for release Thursday from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, to “unknown,” the Associated Press reports.
Lindh, the son of a Department of Justice lawyer who grew up in a San Francisco suburb, was captured in a battle with Northern Alliance fighters in late 2001. Video footage by CNN showed Lindh, weak, dirty and almost incoherent from apparent battlefield injuries, laying on a cot in a detention center.
A CNN camera filmed Lindh, in halting English, telling American forces how he had wound up at a detention camp in northern Afghanistan and survived a Taliban uprising there that killed hundreds of prisoners and CIA officer Mike Spann.
Lindh’s release was opposed by Spann’s family. Lindh was not accused of participating in the killing, but was present during the attack, according to authorities.
Lindh’s freedom comes with court-imposed restrictions, including software on his internet devices. He is required to only use English online, to surrender of his passport, is banned from viewing or possessing extremist material, and required to undergo mental health counseling.
Lindh, a Catholic, converted to Islam as a teenager after seeing the film “Malcolm X” and went overseas to study Arabic and the Koran. In November 2000 he traveled to Pakistan and from there made his way to Afghanistan where he was a volunteer at an al-Qaeda training camp.
He was with the Taliban at the time of the 9/11 attacks and was captured in the U.S.-backed retaliatory raids on Afghanistan.
Foreign Policy reported that two government documents it obtained expressed concerns about Lindh’s extremist views.
One document, from the National Counterterrorism Center, found that as of 2016 Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremists texts,” the magazine reported.
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