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John Walker Lindh, known as the ‘American Taliban,’ set to be released from prison – National

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John Walker Lindh known as the ‘American Taliban’ set to be released from prison National

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But conditions imposed recently on Lindh’s release, slated for Thursday, make clear that authorities remain concerned about the threat he could pose once free.

Lindh, now 38, converted to Islam as a teenager after seeing the film “Malcolm X” and went overseas to study Arabic and the Qur’an. In November 2000, he went to Pakistan and from there made his way to Afghanistan. He joined the Taliban and was with them on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaida terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The U.S. attacked Afghanistan after the country failed to turn over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Lindh was captured in a battle with Northern Alliance fighters in late 2001. He was present when a group of Taliban prisoners launched an attack that killed Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, a CIA officer who had been interrogating Lindh and other Taliban prisoners.


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Television footage of a bearded, wounded Lindh captured among Taliban fighters created an international sensation, and he was brought to the U.S. to face charges of conspiring to kill Spann and providing support to terrorists. Eventually, he struck a plea bargain in which he admitted illegally providing support to the Taliban but denied a role in Spann’s death.

Lindh received a 20-year prison sentence. He served roughly 17 years and five months, including two months when he was in military detention. Federal inmates who exhibit good behaviour typically serve 85 per cent of their sentence.

His probation officer asked the court to impose additional restrictions on Lindh while he remains on supervised release for the next three years. Lindh initially opposed but eventually acquiesced to the restrictions, which include monitoring software on his internet devices; requiring that his online communications be conducted in English and that he undergo mental health counselling; and forbidding him from possessing or viewing extremist material, holding a passport of any kind or leaving the U.S.

WATCH: U.S. and Taliban agree “in principle” to Afghan peace deal





Authorities never specified their rationale for seeking such restrictions. A hearing on the issue was cancelled after Lindh agreed to them.

The Bureau of Prisons said Lindh rejected an interview request submitted by The Associated Press, and his lawyer declined to comment. But there have been reports that Lindh’s behaviour in prison has created cause for concern. Foreign Policy magazine reported in 2017 that an investigation by the National Counterterrorism Center found that Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts.”

A former inmate who knew Lindh from the time they spent at the same federal prison said he never heard Lindh espouse support for al-Qaida or indicate a risk for violence, but he found Lindh to be anti-social and awkward around others, with an unyielding, black-and-white view of religion. The inmate spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wanted to avoid further stigmatization from his time in Lindh’s prison unit.


READ MORE:
ISIS, Taliban competing for credit in spike of violence in Afghanistan

Michael Jensen, a terrorism researcher at the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, said it’s clear the government has concerns about Lindh’s mindset.

“For three years he’s going to be watched like a hawk,” Jensen said.

He said Lindh represents an interesting test case, as he is on the leading edge of dozens of inmates who were convicted on terror-related offences in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and are eligible for release in the next five years. He said there’s little research to indicate the efficacy of de-radicalizing inmates with connections to radical Islam, but he said the research shows that recidivism rates for those connected to white supremacy and other forms of extremism are high.

Lindh has been housed in Terre Haute, Indiana, with other Muslim inmates convicted on terror-related charges. The rationale was to keep those inmates from radicalizing others in the general prison population, Jensen said. Those inside the unit were supposed to be limited in their ability to communicate with each other.

“But the reality is these guys still talk to each other,” he said.

WATCH: Attack on police headquarters in Afghanistan by Taliban leaves 13 dead





Lindh, for his part, admitted his role and his wrongdoing in supporting the Taliban, but he and his family have bristled at any notion that he should be considered a terrorist. When he was sentenced, Lindh said he never would have joined the Taliban if he fully understood what they were about. He also issued a short essay condemning acts of violence in the name of Islam that kill or harm innocent civilians.

Lindh’s time in prison has provided only a few clues about his current outlook. He filed multiple lawsuits, which were largely successful, challenging prison rules he found discriminatory against Muslims. In the more recent lawsuits, he used the name Yahya Lindh. One lawsuit won the right to pray in groups at the prison in Terre Haute. A second lawsuit reversed a policy requiring strip searches for inmates receiving visitors, and a third won the right to wear prison pants above the ankle, which Lindh said is in accordance with Islamic principles.

In the strip-search lawsuit, Lindh offered a discussion of Islamic rules prohibiting exposure of the body. If he’s compelled to reveal himself, he said, he’s also compelled under his religion to fight the rules requiring him to sin.


READ MORE:
3 U.S. Marines killed in Afghanistan bombing claimed by Taliban

Some have criticized Lindh’s pending release. In March, the legislature in Alabama, where Spann grew up, adopted a resolution calling it “an insult” to Spann’s “heroic legacy and his remaining family members.”

In addition, Republican Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan wrote a letter last week to the Bureau of Prisons expressing concern.

“We must consider the security and safety implications for our citizens and communities who will receive individuals like John Walker Lindh who continue to openly call for extremist violence,” they wrote.

On Monday, Spann’s father, Johnny Spann, wrote a letter requesting that Lindh be investigated before he’s released, citing the National Counterterrorism Center’s investigation as his rationale for concern.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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