Parents of ’American Taliban’ haven’t heard from authorities

By Justin Pritchard, The Associated Press
Saturday December 08, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — The parents of the California man found holed up with Taliban troops in Afghanistan said Friday that, nearly a week after his capture, the U.S. government has not given them any word about his condition or whereabouts. 

Through their attorney, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker said they are “desperately worried” about 20-year-old John Phillip Walker Lindh, who gave his name as Abdul Hamid after being taken into custody by U.S. forces following a bloody prison uprising in Mazar-e-Sharif. 

The attorney for the parents, James Brosnahan, told The Associated Press on Friday he had sent a fax to the Department of Defense requesting to know Walker’s whereabouts. Brosnahan said he also spoke to someone at the State Department in charge of determining the location of American detainees abroad. 

Neither agency would confirm Walker’s location, Brosnahan said. 

“Thus far, John’s parents have received no official word as to John’s physical health, mental state or even his whereabouts,” Brosnahan said in a written statement. “They are anxious to know how John is doing. We have renewed our previous request to the government to know what John’s condition is and to visit him without delay.” 

Federal officials first said they were not sure if Walker was an American, and have limited their comments as to whether he should be prosecuted or let free. 

“We appreciate the fact that the government is being deliberate and several high officials have said that they do not know enough about the situation yet, but the parents really want to see their son,” Brosnahan said. 

Walker’s parents have described him as an introvert and a pacifist who converted to Islam when he was 16 and living in Fairfax, Calif. He studied Arabic in Yemen and the Koran in Pakistan before going incommunicado about six months ago, his parents have said. 

Meanwhile, a videotape has surfaced that apparently shows a CIA officer interrogating Walker shortly before the agent was killed in the prison uprising. 

Johnny “Mike” Spann questioned Walker on Nov. 25 in the northern Afghanistan fortress of Kala Jangi, according to a Newsweek magazine report. 

Newsweek said the videotape showed Spann and another CIA agent, known only as Dave, talking with Walker. The magazine said the videotape indicated Dave spoke menacingly to Walker while Spann tried to break his resistance by explaining that the terror attacks on the United States on Sept. 11 had also taken the lives of many Muslims. 

“They (the hijackers) killed other Muslims. There were several hundred other Muslims killed in the bombing. Are you going to talk to us?” Spann asked. 

Walker did not respond. 

Shortly after the interrogation, other prisoners emerged from parts of the fortress and launched the uprising in which Spann was killed.