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Australian-Taliban to be handed over to U.S. military

David Hicks
Australian al Qaeda fighter David Hicks, circled, pictured in Kosovo in mid-1999  

CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- An Australian captured with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group in Afghanistan would soon be handed over to U.S. military forces, the Australian government said on Friday.

The 26-year old male, David Hicks, was captured by Northern Alliance troops on December 9.

Hicks is in good health, the government said, but would not comment on his current whereabouts.

The government said that investigations into Hicks were continuing and his transfer to the custody of the U.S. military would help facilitate access by Australian authorities.

Hicks' capture has raised a legal debate in Australia over his fate.

In a statement, the government said that it would prosecute Hicks if he had broken any Australian laws.

Possible charges being discussed by Australian legal experts include treason, a crime which still theoretically carries a death penalty in Australia.

'Indiana Jones'

Hicks' father, Terry, told media earlier in the week, that he had nicknamed his son "Indiana Jones" because he moved from job to job seeking adventure before finding Islam two years ago.

CNN's Ben Wedeman, who speaks Arabic, talks with al Qaeda members in Tora Bora by two-way radio (December 14)

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He said his son contacted him by satellite phone two weeks after the September 11 attacks in the United States and told him he had joined the Taliban.

"All I know is he was fighting for the Taliban and he said he was off to Kabul to defend Kabul ... That's when I picked myself up from the floor," Hicks told The Herald Sun newspaper on Thursday.

"He's been a handful, a rebel, but not a troublemaker. He's got a bit of hot blood running through his veins," his father said.

"The idea that he's high up in the al Qaeda network is rubbish," Hicks' father said.

"We don't support him on the fact he was fighting but I support him as my son. I just hope he survives ... I'd like to see him again. I still love him."

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Hicks set off from Australia in mid-1999 for Europe. While there he joined the Kosovo Liberation Front and first encountered Islam.

Intimate involvement

After a brief stint back in Adelaide to study at an Islamic college, he converted to Islam, adopting the name Mohammed Dawood.

The Australian government said Hicks moved to Pakistan in November 1999 and trained with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of dozens of Islamic groups fighting to wrest control of Kashmir from India.

He then moved to Afghanistan last year and trained with bin Laden's network.

Hicks has no known criminal record and had "not previously come to notice" with Australian security organizations.

He has, however, been intimately involved with the al Qaeda network, according to Williams.

"What we can say is that he has undertaken more training than Mr. Walker has," Williams told radio listeners Wednesday.

Australia was one of the first nations to offer military assistance to the U.S. following the September 11 terror attacks.

About 150 of Australia's Special Air Services troops are now deployed on the frontlines in Afghanistan.

In total, Australia has committed more than 1,500 military personnel to the coalition response as well as navy frigates, a transport ship with air defense, long-range maritime patrol aircraft, tanker aircraft and F/A-18 fighter aircraft.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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