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American Teen Joined Taliban While Studying Islamic Religion

By Rene Sanchez
THE WASHINGTON POST -- los angeles

Four years ago, a studious California teen-ager named John Philip Walker Lindh startled his middle-class Catholic parents by announcing that he was converting to Islam. A few days ago, after a long and still mysterious journey abroad to study the religion, he turned up on an Afghanistan battlefield as a bloodied Taliban fighter who called himself Abdul Hamid.

A gunshot wound to his leg, the 20-year-old told U.S. military officers and journalists that he had fought alongside the Taliban for months, until he and other fighters surrendered to Northern Alliance forces last week.

And he might not be the only American to have joined the Taliban. Two other captured soldiers also claim to be U.S. citizens, a senior U.S. defense official said in Washington.

“I have seen military reporting saying that there are two other Americans in (Northern Alliance) custody,” the official said. “I can’t tell you their names or where they are, but I have seen that in military reporting.”

Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker identified their son after a close family friend taped CNN footage on his capture and showed it to them.

“They couldn’t believe it,” Bill Jones, the family friend, said Monday. “He’s a good American kid. He had been on a spiritual quest and they were supportive. They broke into tears when they heard him called an ’American Taliban.’ He must have got swept away in something, because he was on a mission of mercy.”

In a CNN interview shown Monday, Walker said he became acquainted with the Taliban while studying Islam in Pakistan and that his “heart became attached” to some of the group’s fundamentalist teachings.

Jones said Walker, who uses his mother’s last name, had been overseas for several years and his parents had last heard from him in the spring, when he sent an e-mail from Pakistan. “They had been trying everything to track him down,” Jones said.