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John Walker Lindh has served 17 years of a 20-year sentence after being captured fighting for the Taliban in 2001. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

American who fought for Taliban to be freed early from US prison

John Walker Lindh to be released but some politicians say he may still be security risk

WT24 Desk

John Walker Lindh, the American captured in 2001 fighting for the Taliban, is to be released early from federal prison despite some US politicians expressing concerns he may still be a security risk, Reuters reports.

Lindh, photographed as a bearded 20-year-old when captured in Afghanistan, will leave a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, on probation on Thursday after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence, according to a prison official.

Now 38, Lindh is among dozens of prisoners due 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 11 September 2001 attacks.

His release brought objections from elected officials who asked why Lindh was being freed early and what training parole officers had to spot radicalisation and recidivism among former jihadists.

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

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

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

Melissa Kimberley, a spokeswoman for Terre Haute prison, could not confirm details of Lindh’s release other than it would be on Thursday.

Born in the US, 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 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.

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

But a January 2017 report by the US government’s National Counterterroism Center, published by Foreign Policy magazine, said that as of May 2016, Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts”.

NBC said Lindh wrote a letter to its Los Angeles station KNBC in 2015 expressing support for Islamic State, saying the radical Islamist group was fulfilling “a religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle”.

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