American who fought with Taliban forces defends terrorists in taped interview
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dizzy from morphine and weary from battle, American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh defended the terrorists accused of destroying the World Trade Center during an interview soon after his capture.
Lindh, a 20-year-old American from San Anselmo, Calif., said the Koran permits Muslims to kill in cases of holy war.
The interview by a CNN reporter was aired in its entirety for the first time Wednesday.
“That is a question that is addressed in the Koran itself,” Lindh told CNN. “In certain cases Muslims by necessity can kill and … there are situations in which a Muslim can be killed (by other Muslims).”
Referring to jihad, the Islamic word for holy war, he said, “It’s exactly what I thought it would be.”
Asked if it was the right cause, he said, “Definitely.”
Lindh, who sometimes uses only his mother’s last name, which is Walker, was found holed up with captured Taliban fighters last month after northern alliance forces quelled a prison uprising in northern Afghanistan.
He was taken into custody by American forces and flown to the USS Peleliu, off the coast of Pakistan.
Lindh told of dodging grenades and helping other Taliban fighters as northern alliance forces closed in on the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
His face was blackened from battle and he swooned as he spoke, telling the reporter he was taking morphine to quell his pain. Lindh had been shot in the leg.
He said the spirits of the Taliban fighters were broken when rebel forces pumped gas, then water, into the prison.
“Most of us were injured,” Lindh said. “More than half of us were injured on that last day when they poured water into the basement. We were standing in freezing water for maybe 20 hours.”
Talk of surrender came quickly.
The prison “was filled with the stench of bodies and we didn’t have any more weapons available. We said, ‘Look we’re gonna die,”‘ he said.
“If we surrender, the worst that can happen is they’ll torture us or kill us. So right here in the basement, they’re torturing us and killing us, so we might as well surrender.”
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday that President Bush will make a decision about Lindh once Justice Department and Pentagon officials finish reviewing his case.
“He is being treated as someone who fought against the United States in an armed conflict. And that’s why he’s classified properly as a battlefield detainee, and he is being treated well,” Fleischer said.
Another videotape of Lindh, taken by ABC News, showed his interrogation by CIA agents before the uprising. He sat despondent, in a dusty clearing with his hands tied behind his back. His clothing was tattered and dirty; his hair hid his face. His interrogators were Johnny “Mike” Spann, who was later killed in the uprising, and an agent known only as Dave.
Lindh didn’t answer any questions and was led away.
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