John Walker Lindh

individual

Overview

  • American Muslim convert and member of al Qaeda terrorist group
  • Took up arms against American troops in Afghanistan after 9/11
  • Sentenced to twenty years in prison

Born in 1981 and baptized a Catholic, John Walker Lindh was raised in Marin County, California. He studied Islam while in high school and at age 16 converted to the Muslim faith, calling himself Suleyman al-Faris. In July 1998 he left the U.S. for the Arabian peninsula to study Arabic at a madrassa (Islamic school) in Yemen, with the goal of being able to read the Koran’s original script. After nine months in Yemen, Lindh went home for a short period to California. On February 1, 2000 he returned to Yemen, and eight months later went to Pakistan – supposedly to study at an advanced madrassa. He entered Afghanistan in the Spring of 2001, where he linked up with the Taliban, the religious fanatics who ruled that country by terror. That June and July, he attended an al Qaeda training camp that was occasionally visited by Osama bin Laden.

That fall, Lindh became a soldier in the Taliban army and an operative of al Qaeda, taking up arms against the U.S. troops who were sent to Afghanistan after the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks. He was captured, along with some 3,000 other Taliban soldiers, by American and Northern Alliance troops in November 2001. Once in custody, he told Northern Alliance forces that he was named Abdul Hamid, but while being interrogated by CIA combat operative Mike Spann he confessed his American birth and gave his name as John Phillip Walker. He later revealed that that was a lie–Walker was his mother’s maiden name. He had taken her name and abandoned his father’s, because the father had left wife and family and moved in with a gay boyfriend in San Rafael, California.  

After his capture, Lindh was removed to an American assault ship in the Arabian Sea, where, under Marine questioning, he revealed his al Qaeda connection. He was returned to the U.S. and in February 2002 was indicted by a federal grand jury on ten charges, including conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals. He could have faced three life terms plus 90 years. In a plea bargain where he admitted to serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons, the U.S. government dropped the other charges; Lindh agreed to cooperate with FBI and intelligence officials, and he was sentenced to 20 years.

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