'American Taliban' Lindh released from US prison: US media

John Walker Lindh served 17 years of a 20-year sentence after pleading guilty to providing support to the Taliban.

    This file television footage in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on December 1, 2001, shows John Walker Lindh, right [File: AP Photo/APTN]
    This file television footage in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on December 1, 2001, shows John Walker Lindh, right [File: AP Photo/APTN]

    The California man who became known as the "American Taliban" after his capture in Afghanistan in November 2001 was released from prison on Thursday, US media reported.

    John Walker Lindh, who was 20 years old when he was captured, left prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, on probation after serving 17 years, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the release.

    Lindh's plea deal called for a 20-year sentence, but he's getting out a few years early for good behaviour.

    Now 38, Lindh is among dozens of prisoners to be released over the next few years after being captured in Iraq and Afghanistan and convicted of terrorism-related crimes following the attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001.

    'Unconscionable'

    His release brought objections from elected officials who asked why Lindh was being freed early.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Lindh's release "unexplainable and unconscionable".

    "There's something deeply troubling and wrong about it," he said on Fox News on Thursday morning.

    A judge recently imposed additional restrictions on Lindh's post-release supervision, including monitoring of his internet use.

    Leaked US government documents published by Foreign Policy magazine show the federal government as recently as 2016 described Lindh as holding "extremist views".

    "What is the current interagency policy, strategy, and process for ensuring that terrorist/extremist offenders successfully reintegrate into society?" asked US Senators Richard Shelby and Margaret Hassan in a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

    John Walker Lindh
    John Walker Lindh is led away by a Northern Alliance soldier near Fort Qali-i-Janghi prison near Mazar-i-Sharif on December 1, 2001, after he was captured among al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners following an uprising at the prison [Reuters] [Daylife]

    Lindh's parents, Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh, did not respond to requests for comment and Lindh's lawyer, Bill Cummings, declined to comment.

    Melissa Kimberley, a spokeswoman for the prison in Terre Haute, could not immediately be reached for confirmation of the Post's report.

    No intention to 'fight against America'

    US-born Lindh converted from Catholicism to Islam as a teenager. At his 2002 sentencing, he said he travelled to Yemen to learn Arabic and then to Pakistan to study Islam.

    He said he volunteered as a soldier with the Taliban 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.

    John Walker Lindh
    Undated file photo of John Walker Lindh, obtained from record of religious schools where he studied for five months in Bannu, 304km southwest of Islamabad, Pakistan [AP Photo] [Daylife]

    Lindh told the court he condemned "terrorism on every level" and attacks by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden were "completely against Islam".

    But 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 News reported that Lindh wrote a letter to its Los Angeles station KNBC in 2015 expressing support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), saying the armed group was fulfilling "a religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle".

    SOURCE: News agencies